"While Walter piled food on his plate, he and Atticus talked together like two men, to the wonderment of Jem and me." How does this description of Walter contrast with his actions at school and what do we know about the Cunningham family from To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Scout's comment regarding the way in which Walter carried on a conversation with Atticus contrasts with his shy demeanour at school. When Miss Caroline offers him a quarter, Walter simply shakes his head at her without speaking. He is too shy to explain his situation and remains quiet while Scout attempts to elaborate on his family's background. We learn that Walter is from a poor farming family with integrity. The Cunninghams have been hit hard by the Depression. Walter Cunningham Jr. does not own any shoes and does not have a lunch on the first day of school. Walter's father barters for services because his family does not have any money. He repaid Atticus for handling his entailment by giving him stovewood, sacks of hickory nuts, a crate of smilax and holly, and a crokersack full of turnip greens. Scout mentions that the Cunninghams never take anything that they cannot pay back, which is the reason Walter declines Miss Caroline's quarter. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial