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Knowing Oneself Essay

1051 words - 5 pages

Knowing Oneself
In the award-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, set in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930's, many characters go through different struggles in their day-to-day lives. These storms teach the reader different things about the characters. Walter Cunningham Sr., a farmer, goes through two very difficult struggles, trying to stay afloat during the economic crisis and trying to decide for himself if the prejudice Maycomb's people have for the African Americans is right.
First off, one of the storms Walter Cunningham Sr. goes through is trying to provide for his family during the Great Depression. In the beginning of the novel, Atticus, the best lawyer in all of Maycomb, is telling his daughter, Scout, and his son, Jem, that "If he held his mouth right, Mr. Cunningham could get a WPA job, but his land would go to ruin if he left it, and he [is] willing to go hungry to keep his land and votes as he pleased"(Lee 12). Clearly, this shows that Walter Cunningham is very passionate about what he does, and could not bear to let his farm go, even if it means that he will struggle to provide for his family and may only be hurting himself. But, Walter, being the strong character he is, continues to fight by putting everything he has into his farm in order to keep his family alive and just barely get by on what he has. A little while later in the novel, Scout explains to the reader how Walter pays them. "One morning Jem and I found a load of stovewood in the back yard. Later, a sack of hickory nuts appeared on the back steps . . . Atticus said Mr. Cunningham had more than paid him" (11). This illustrates the idea that Walter Cunningham is a very responsible individual who is making the best of his situation by paying with what he has, even if it is not much. He has figured out how to use what he has to provide his family with means of paying for things they need, and is obviously very hard working in order to provide, while still being clever enough to think of using food to pay for the things he needs. But take care of his family is not the only storm Walter goes through.
The struggle of trying to figure out who he is and what he believes to be true is another storm Walter Cunningham goes through. This introspective journey begins outside the courthouse jail during a confrontation between Atticus and a group of men, including Walter. Scout, who has no understanding of the situation, tries to talk to Mr. Cunningham. After a long, one-sided conversation, she looks up "at Mr. Cunningham, whose face was equally as impassive. Then he [does] a peculiar thing. He squat[s] down and [takes] me [Scout] by both shoulders. 'I’ll tell him you said hey, little lady....'" (82). Then, Walter promptly leaves. In this chapter, Scout shows her innocence through her attempt to make casual conversation with Walter Cunningham in a hostile situation. This innocence leads to him to take a step back in...

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