To kill a Mocking Bird - Revision Questions

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To kill a Mocking Bird – Revision Questions

Question 1 – Say what you know about the Cunninghams:


The Cunningham family does not play a major role in the novel but in their brief appearances, the way they are viewed by others shows us a lot about the other characters.

The first mention of the Cunninghams comes in chapter 1 where Scout describes a rumoured legend of a gang in Maycomb’s history formed by the Radleys and The Cunninghams. From here we know the Cunninghams are negatively viewed by the society of Maycomb:

“ Nobody in Maycomb had nerve to tell Mr. Radley that his boy was in with the wrong crowd.”

The Cunninghams are referred to as “the wrong crowd” showing that they are given an even lower status than the Radleys.

After this minor encounter with the family, they are not mentioned again until Scout begins school in chapter 2. Walter Cunningham is brought to our attention when the schoolteacher asks him where his lunch is and, then offers him some money to buy some. Scout, thinking she is doing Walter a favour, makes an attempt to explain why Walter doesn’t want Miss Caroline’s money, “Walter’s one of the Cunninghams, Miss Caroline. they never take anything of anybody that they can’t pay back’’. Scout recalls a story of how the Cunninghams paid back Atticus with whatever they could get – showing they have pride in themselves and aren’t prepared to live off others.

In chapter 3 Scout has a run in with Walter Cunningham at school. Jem stops Scout, showing his more mature understanding of people. He takes pity on Walter seeing a neglected child from a poverty stricken background. As a result he invites Walter home for dinner and Walter hesitantly agrees. Scout is a little less sympathetic because she has picked up the general Maycomb view of the Cunninghams as an underclass. “He aint company Cal, he’s just a Cunningham”.  After a short pause of disapproval she gives in to the idea.

The physical description of Walter, given in this chapter, reinforces the image of the Cunningham’s as a poor family which cannot afford to feed the children properly i.e.  “raised on fish food; his eyes…. were red-rimmed and watery. There was no colour in his face.” This description clearly shows the extent of his Walter’s neglect.

The Cunninghams are not mentioned again in great detail but Mr. Cunningham appears amongst the gang opposing Atticus in the scene outside the prison, and, is, in fact, the member of the mob who is swayed by Scout’s pleadings not to harm her father or Tom Robinson.  This shows that, although Mr. Cunningham had weakly followed the mob, he was not altogether an unkind man.

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Question 2 - What are the really important things Scout learns on her first day at school?

        On Scout’s first day at school she learns three main lessons through different experiences.  The first incident is prompted by Miss Caroline’s discovery that she can already read,

“she discovered I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste”

 Miss Caroline obviously disapproves of Scout’s advancement and feels she should have been the one to teach Scout to read.

“ Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to ...

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