To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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Why does Aunt Alexandra accept that the Cunninghams may be good but are not "our kind of folks" in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 23, Scout says that she cannot wait to invite Walter Cunningham Jr. over to play in the summertime, and Aunt Alexandra replies by saying, "We’ll see about that" (Lee, 227). Scout responds by saying that the Cunninghams are good folks, and Alexandra agrees. Alexandra then mentions that although the Cunninghams are good people, they are not "our kind of folks." When Scout continues to ask her aunt why she is not allowed to play with Walter Jr., Aunt Alexandra finally says,

"Because—he—is—trash, that’s why you can’t play with him" (Lee, 228).

Essentially, Aunt Alexandra is prejudiced against lower-class families and believes that she and her family are too good to associate with the Cunninghams. Aunt Alexandra hails from an upper-middle-class family and views people from lower social classes with contempt. Alexandra feels that the Cunninghams and other poor farming families are dirty and lack the social refinement of citizens from her same social class. Aunt Alexandra's prejudiced views toward lower-class white families like the Cunninghams are similar to her prejudiced feelings regarding black citizens.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Aunt Alexandra tells her children that the Cunninghams are lower class.

Scout wants to be friends with Walter Cunningham, and sees no reason why she can’t be.  Aunt Alexandra wants Scout and Jem to understand that as Finches, they are special.  They are above what Jem calls “tacky” people like the Cunninghams.

"The thing is, you can scrub Walter Cunningham till he shines, you can put him in shoes and a new suit, but he'll never be like Jem. Besides, there's a drinking streak in that family a mile wide. Finch women aren't interested in that sort of people." (Ch. 23)

Although Jem talks about the Finches liking “fiddlin' and things like that” and Aunt Alexandra talking about the drinking streak, the reality is that she considers them inferior people.

When Aunt Alexandra talks about "that sort of people," she is reinforcing another kind of prejudice.  Racial discrimination is not the only kind present in Maycomb.  Aunt Alexandra and others will look down on the Cunninghams, and teach children to look down on them.  That is how the cycle of hatred, misunderstand, and prejudice continues.

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