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Since public schools are often microcosms of the larger society of the town that they are in, Harper Lee cleverly introduces the caste system that operates in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. In addition to representing the social strata of Maycomb, the children mirror the behavior and thinking of adults who appear later in the narrative.
Here is a list of Scout's classmates:
Little Chuck Little, a boy whose "patience with all living things was phenomenal." Scout narrates that Little Chuck was another who does not know where his money will come from, but he is a pure gentleman. When Miss Caroline screams, Little Chuck assumes that she has seen a mouse. However, she has seen a "cootie," instead. Although Little Chuck "does not know where his next mail is coming from, he is "a born gentleman" who escorts Miss Caroline with one hand under her elbow.
Walter Cunningham, who is immediately identified as poor as the children peruse his face which evidences hookworms. He is a country boy whose father is too proud to go to work for the WPA; he did not want to lose his land as he would have to surrender it if he took a job with WPA. Because the family is so poor, Walter has no lunch pail. Walter cannot pass the first grade because he has to work in the field and chop wood. Continuing, Walter tells Atticus that nowadays he is replaced by another sibling at home, so he can attend school.
Although Walter is poor, he demonstrates ethical behavior; in addition, he is considered of the middle class in Maycomb because his father does own land. Later in the novel, Mr. Cunningham exhibits this same ethical behavior.
Burris Ewell is the boy who has "cooties." He simply smashes them with this hand. When Miss Caroline instructs him to rid himself of the "cooties," Burris asks, "What for?" He is absolutely filthy: "His neck was dark gray, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his fingernails were black deep into the quick. When Miss Caroline instructs him to read about lice, she also tells him to go home and wash his hair with lye soap and be bathed when he returns tomorrow, Burris laughs rudely and retorts, "You ain't sendin' me home, missus. I was on the verge of leavin'--I done done my time for this year." And, the truancy officer simply gets him on the role, failing to make him come to school.
Seeking to intervene, Little Chuck asks the teacher to let Burris go:
He's a mean one, a hard-down mean one. He's liable to start something, and there's some little folks here.
Insulted in his perverse way, Burris yells back at Miss Caroline that no one is "making" him move. This behavior foreshadows the defiance of the law that his father will exhibit as well as the choice of words. Later, Atticus tells Scout that the Ewells are "the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations." But, the Cunninghams "never took anything..."
Burris Ewell and his family reside by the garbage dump. They are lower in economic class than anyone else in Maycomb. Of course, Mayella and Mr. Ewell display the same lack of consideration for others.
Cecil Jacobs is also a classmate of Scout's, but he is not mentioned in the first chapters. He frightens Scout as she walks to the Halloween pageant in Chapter 28. Having ridden by car with his parents, he backtracks some to find Scout and Jem, but cannot resist frightening her. His actions also foreshadow actions by an adult.
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