To Kill a Mockingbird

What details in Scout's description suggest that the Cunninghams are people of principle? (chapter 2)

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Scout tells Miss Caroline that Walter is a Cunningham, and thinks that explanation should be enough. After realizing Miss Caroline doesn't know what that means, Scout explains that the Cunninghams don't accept other people's help, and just try to get by with what little they have. Scout mentally recollects how Mr. Cunningham, when entailed, repaid Atticus for his legal services by giving the Finch family hickory nuts, stove wood, and other farm produce. The Cunninghams are farmers who don't have actual money now that the Depression is on. Many professionals in the town charge their country clients in farm produce rather than monetary currency.

Where a person's identity is greatly influenced by their family and its history, this chapter again shows that in Maycomb, a child's behavior can be explained simply by his family's last name, as when Scout explains to her teacher "he's a Cunningham." Atticus says that Mr. Cunningham "came from a set breed of men," which suggests that the entire Cunningham line shares the same values. In this case, they have pride: they do not like to take money they can't pay back, and they continue to live off the land in poverty rather than work for the government (in the WPA, FDR's Work Projects Administration). Thus, in Maycomb County, people belong to familial "breeds," which can determine a member's disposition or temperament. All the other children in the class understand this: growing up in this setting teaches children that people can behave a certain way simply because of the family or group that they come from.