To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What Is Walter Cunningham Like

What is Walter Cunningham like and what does his behavior during lunch suggest about his home life in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Small for his age, Walter Cunningham is a shy and timid boy who apparently is riddled with hookworms. Scout is bigger than Walter even though he is nearly as old as Jem, and Scout has no problem "rubbing his nose in the dirt" in the schoolyard. He comes to school barefoot (the source of the worms) because his family can't afford shoes, but he does wear "a clean shirt and neatly mended overalls." He is clearly hungry, since he accepts Jem's invitation to lunch even though he is wary of being pummeled again by Scout. He is polite, addressing Miss Caroline as "ma'am" and Atticus as "Mr. Finch." He is a true farmboy, and he immediately launches into an adult conversation with Atticus "about crops neither Jem nor I could follow." He explains to Atticus why he is still in the first grade, since

"I've had to stay out ever' spring an' help Papa with the choppin'..."  (Chapter 3)

He also has a sweet tooth, drowning "his dinner in syrup," probably because his parents can't afford such a luxury. He is embarrassed when Scout rudely points out this culinary faux pas, ducking his head in shame and removing his hands from the table. Walter probably has little time to play since he has no time to attend school; instead, he is expected to join his other family members working on the farm. Poor but honest, Walter will probably remain in Old Sarum, following in his father's farming footsteps.

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zumba96 | Student

Walter is a small boy and he gets beaten up by Scout. When Jem calls him over he accepts since he is very hungry but kind of nervous because of Scout. He is poor but he is an honest boy and he feels bad when Scout yells at him for pouring too much syrup. 

hockeypuck124 | Student

Walter is more independent and he keeps to himself. His behavoir suggests that his home life isn't very good. He is poor and hard-working because he has no choice. The Cunninghams won't take money from anyone unless they can pay it back. That is why Walter won't take any lucnh money.