Who Is the Cunningham Family in To Kill a Mockingbird?
To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, is a classic American novel that explores themes of racism, justice, and morality in the 1930s. One of the prominent families in the book is the Cunningham family, which plays a significant role in portraying the socio-economic divide in Maycomb County. The Cunninghams, depicted as poor farmers, are essential in highlighting the stark contrast between different social classes in the small town.
The Cunningham family, led by Walter Cunningham Sr., is introduced early in the novel. They are described as hardworking but impoverished, struggling to make ends meet during the Great Depression. The Cunninghams are so poor that they can only pay their debts with goods instead of money. This is demonstrated when Scout, the novel’s protagonist, tries to explain to her teacher, Miss Caroline, why Walter Cunningham Jr. refuses to accept a loaned quarter for lunch. Scout explains that the Cunninghams cannot afford to repay money, as they do not have any, and instead pay back with things they can produce, such as crops or firewood.
The Cunninghams are respected within the community because they are known for their hard work, honesty, and humility. Although they are poor, they never beg or take charity. Instead, they pride themselves on their self-sufficiency and strive to maintain their dignity. The Cunninghams are also deeply rooted in their traditions and values, which makes them resistant to outside influence.
The family plays a crucial role in the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Atticus Finch, the novel’s protagonist, is appointed as Tom’s defense lawyer and faces significant opposition from the town’s white population. However, the Cunninghams show a glimmer of humanity when they join Atticus outside the jail, intending to lynch Tom. Scout, recognizing Walter Cunningham Jr. among the mob, innocently strikes up a conversation with him, reminding him of the kindness Atticus has shown him in the past. This interaction humanizes the Cunninghams and ultimately diffuses the tension, preventing the lynching from occurring.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
1. Are the Cunninghams a real family?
No, the Cunninghams are fictional characters created by Harper Lee for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
2. How does the Cunningham family represent poverty in the book?
The Cunninghams are depicted as poor farmers who struggle to make a living during the Great Depression. They represent the hardships faced by impoverished families in Maycomb County.
3. Why do the Cunninghams refuse charity or loans?
The Cunninghams take pride in their self-sufficiency and prefer to pay back with goods they can produce rather than accepting charity or loans they cannot repay.
4. What role do the Cunninghams play in the trial of Tom Robinson?
Walter Cunningham Jr. is part of the mob that intends to lynch Tom Robinson. However, Scout’s innocent conversation with him humanizes the Cunninghams and prevents the lynching.
5. How do the Cunninghams differ from the Ewells?
The Cunninghams, although poor, are hardworking and honest. In contrast, the Ewells are portrayed as lazy and dishonest, taking advantage of the system.
6. Are the Cunninghams racist?
While the Cunninghams are not overtly racist, they are influenced by the prevailing racial prejudices of their time and community.
7. How does the Cunningham family contribute to the novel’s themes?
The Cunninghams highlight the socio-economic divide in Maycomb County and serve as a reminder of the importance of empathy and understanding.
8. Is Walter Cunningham Jr. a main character in the novel?
Walter Cunningham Jr. is a minor character, but his interactions with Scout are significant in diffusing tension and revealing the humanity of the Cunninghams.
9. Are there any conflicts within the Cunningham family?
There are no notable conflicts within the Cunningham family in the novel. They are portrayed as a united and tightly-knit group.
10. Why does Scout befriend Walter Cunningham Jr.?
Scout befriends Walter Cunningham Jr. due to their shared experiences and her compassionate nature. She sees beyond social class differences and treats him with kindness.
11. Do the Cunninghams change their views on race throughout the novel?
While the Cunninghams display a degree of racial prejudice, there is no explicit indication of them changing their views throughout the story. However, their actions suggest a potential for growth and empathy.