In what way does Walter Cunningham's (Scout's classmate) behavior reflect his family's values?

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Susan Woodward | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Because Walter Cunningham, from To Kill a Mockingbird, is exposed to the adult world of work at a young age (he must help his father with the family farm), he seems to have matured more quickly than Scout or even Jem.  Walter does not engage in much playtime, like the Finch children or Dill do, and because of his knowledge about farming, he is able to carry on an "adult" conversation with Atticus.  He is resepectful to Atticus, demonstrating that the Cunninghams raised Walter to be a fine young man in spite of their financial situation.  The Cunninghams are juxtaposed by the Ewell family, another poor white family in the South; however, the Ewells do not exhibit the manners and values that young Walter has been exposed to.  

A reminder to the reader that Walter is still a young boy despite his adult demeanor comes when Walter pours syrup over his supper.  We remember that he is a boy living in the adult world of work and not in the childhood world of play.  When chastised by Scout for "spoiling his dinner", Walter does not get into a childish argument with her, but instead becomes silent.  Although he is uncomfortable, he knows enough to not be rude when he is a guest in someone's house.

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tom1947 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Class differences, particularly in small to medium size Southern towns.  Walter was a poor country boy and Scout was a city girl belonging to the town's educated elite...It's my favorite scene in the movie..And the black housekeeper and cook kinda rolled her eyes when Walter asked if they had any syrup...She wasn't crazy about the Cunningham boy eating supper with them anyway. The housekeeper's expression indicates that she knew what was coming next...That Walter would pour syrup all over his proper six course southern supper.. Heck, they already had iced tea..  I also liked Robert Duvall as Boo Radley....

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