Why Did Atticus Put A Cunningham On The Jury

2 Answers

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Atticus apparently has always enjoyed a good relationship with the Cunninghams, an "enormous and confusing tribe domiciled in the northern part of the county" known as Old Sarum. Atticus has represented Walter Cunningham Sr. concerning his "entailment" issues, and he gladly welcomes young Walter Jr. into his home for a molasses-drenched dinner. The lynch mob, made up of several members of the Cunningham clan, have no quarrel specifically with Atticus: They want Tom Robinson, and Atticus merely stands in their way. They respectfully address Atticus as "Mr. Finch," and they adhere to his demand to whisper so Tom's sleep is not disturbed. When Scout's innocent conversation with Mr. Cunningham shames the men into leaving, Atticus realizes that the men's honesty and strong moral ethic is greater than the other jury candidates. His "hunch" to seat a Cunningham on the jury proves accurate, since it is "one of your Old Sarum friends" who held out the longest before siding with the other jurors.

... the Cunninghams hadn't taken anything from or off of anybody since they migrated to the New World... once you earned their respect they were for you tooth and nail. Atticus said he had a feeling... that they left the jail that night with considerable respect for the Finches.  (Chapter 23)

Sources:
gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

As was mentioned in the previous post, Atticus has a solid relationship with the Cunninghams. The family has always treated Atticus with respect and is known throughout the community as people with integrity. In Chapter 23, Atticus explains to Jem and Scout that one of the Cunninghams voted to have Tom Robinson acquitted while the jury was deliberating. This information shocks Jem considering the fact that members of the Cunningham tribe attempted to lynch Tom before the trial. Atticus explains that when they stood up to the Cunninghams that night, the Cunninghams gained considerable respect for the Finches. Atticus chose a Cunningham to sit on the jury because he knew the Cunningham has a conscience and there is a possibility that a Cunningham will stand up to the prejudiced jury members the same way Atticus stood up to the Old Sarum bunch.

Sources: