To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Where in To Kill a Mockingbird is the proof that the Finches are poor? I'm looking for the quote, something along the lines of 'Are we poor?' 'Yes' between Atticus and the kids, but I have looked,...

Where in To Kill a Mockingbird is the proof that the Finches are poor? I'm looking for the quote, something along the lines of 'Are we poor?' 'Yes' between Atticus and the kids, but I have looked, and my teacher has looked, it just seems to be alluding us.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 2, Scout elaborates to the audience on a past conversation she had with her father to explain Walter Cunningham Jr.'s background during her lunchtime interaction with Miss Caroline. Scout recalls having a conversation with Atticus when she asked him why Mr. Cunningham paid him in resources found on his farm instead of giving him money. Atticus responded by telling his daughter that Mr. Cunningham had no money. When Scout asked her father if they were poor, Atticus responded by saying, "We are indeed" (Lee, 21). Atticus went on to tell Scout that they were not exactly as poor as the Cunninghams, because the economic crash hit the farmers the hardest. Atticus also said,

"...professional people were poor because the farmers were poor. As Maycomb County was farm country, nickels and dimes were hard to come by for doctors and dentists and lawyers" (Lee, 21).

Essentially, Atticus and his family are relatively well-off compared to their other community members but would not consider themselves lucky. In the context of the story, the Depression negatively affects everyone's income, which includes educated professionals like Atticus, who make their money from doing business with local citizens. Atticus recognizes that his financial situation is as insecure as the poorer citizens in Maycomb, which is why he tells his daughter that they are also poor but not as poor as the Cunninghams.

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clairewait eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The quote you are looking for is in chapter 2.  It comes as a flashback just after Scout's embarrassment on her first day of school when she tries to explain why Walter Cunningham cannot take lunch money from Miss Caroline.  Atticus' lesson on "entailments" is actually a great passage showing an historical view of those times in America's history.  A modern audience would expect the Finch's to be comfortable, if not wealthy.  For one thing, Atticus is an educated attorney.  For another thing, his family owns land.  As exposition in the story, this short scene gives personal insight into what life was like in the south after the stock market crash.  It is interesting to see Atticus' pragmatic comparison of two families who otherwise belong to completely separate socio-economic groups.

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