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Scout's classmate, Walter Cunningham Jr., is a member of the Cunningham family from Old Sarum, an
... enormous and confusing tribe domiciled in the northern part of the county, and they formed the nearest thing to a gang ever seen in Maycomb. They did little, but enough to be discussed by the town and publicly warned from three pulpits:... they attended dances at the county's riverside gambling hell, the Dew-Drop Inn & Fishing Camp; they experimented with stumphole whiskey.
It is with members of the Cunningham family that Boo Radley is arrested, the first step in his downward spiral to reclusiveness within his own home. Atticus has defended Walter Jr.'s father in the past, being paid not in cash but in farm goods--stovewood, hickory nuts, smilax, holly and turnip greens. He is described as an honest but poor man and down on his luck. Although Walter Jr. comes to school hungry and without lunch money, he is clean and polite. Later, Walter Sr. heads the lynch mob that confronts Atticus at the jail with the intention of removing Tom and hanging him. But Walter Sr. sees the error of his ways when Scout innocently begins a conversation with him, and Cunningham orders his friends to leave Atticus and Tom alone. It is also one of the Cunninghams who is the lone holdout on the jury, initially refusing to vote for Tom's conviction.
The Cunninghams are important in showing the difference between the different types of poor people who can be found in Maycomb. Where Bob Ewell is dishonest, drinks up his welfare check, pays little attention to his family, and has murderous intentions, the Cunninghams are an honest bunch who farm their land but are barely able to make ends meet. Although Aunt Alexandra considers Walter Jr. "trash," the Cunninghams have a long way to go to reach the depths attained by the Ewell family.
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