What is the WPA, and why won't Mr. Cunningham work for it? What does this reveal about his character?
In the 1930s, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. The WPA was formed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create jobs for unemployed workers. The full name of the WPA was the Works Progress Administration, and the primary purpose was to create public parks, buildings, and roadways while employing workers. Workers hired by the WPA were typically unskilled men.
Mr. Cunningham had little money, but he still refused to take a job with the WPA. Though a WPA job would provide Mr. Cunningham with steady income, "his land would go to ruin if he left it, and he was willing to go hungry to keep his land and vote as he pleased" (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 2). He was a farmer, and Atticus noted that the stock market crash of 1929 had been particularly difficult for farmers. Despite these difficulties, Mr. Cunningham desired more than just to have an income. He was a proud man who did not want to give up on his land.