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To Kill a Mockingbird – Revision Questions

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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.

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 teach me anymore, that it would interfere with my reading”

Scout then goes on to increase the teacher’s annoyance by correcting Miss Caroline:

“He hasn’t taught me anything”

She doesn’t realise that it isn’t considered acceptable to correct a teacher, however wrong they are and that Miss Caroline does not like to be shown up in front of the class. Scout’s innocence lands her in trouble and, although the teacher doesn’t get especially angry, she leaves Scout feeling as though she has done something wrong.

“I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime”

She learns not to speak back to, or correct a teacher and that Miss Caroline doesn’t like her pupils to be taught by any methods other than her own.

The second lesson she learns is through an experience with Walter Cunningham whereby Scout makes an attempt to excuse Walter’s behaviour by explaining to the teacher “he’s a Cunningham.” Miss Caroline is angered again because, understandably, she doesn’t want Scout advising her on how to treat one of the other children. She probably also feels that Scout embarrassed Walter by the condescending way she spoke about him.

So Scout learns two significant lessons in the classroom in the first day are, firstly not to challenge Miss Caroline on the way she wants them to be taught, particularly in front of the rest of the class and, secondly, not to interfere in the way she manages other members of the class.

The end result of Scout’s transgressions is a smack with the ruler for Scout. Later in the day Atticus helps her to understand the mistakes she made by explaining she must understand things from Miss Caroline’s point of view “you never understand until you consider things from his point of view”

Scout also learns another important lesson from the Walter Cunningham incident. When Jem invites Walter home for dinner, Scout mocks him for pouring syrup on her meat. This prompts Calpurnia to tell her off severely for being “so high and mighty”. Therefore the last important lesson learned is to treat people as equal.

Question 3 – Write an account of the episode involving Tim Robinson, the mad dog. What do you learn about Atticus’ character from this episode?

In chapter 10 a minor incident, involving a mad dog occurs and as a result a new side of Atticus’ personality surfaces.

Tim Johnson, the mad dog, is first spotted by Jem while he and Scout were trying out their new air rifles. Jem is immediately wary of the situation and senses there is something wrong with the dog. He warns Calpurnia who comes out to take an opinion on the situation. After viewing the animal herself she is alarmed and rings Atticus followed by the remaining members of Maycomb. Everyone in the street goes inside while Atticus and the Sheriff, Mr. Heck Tate, return home from work. The Sheriff has his gun ready and they wait for the mad dog to get closer. As the dog nears, Atticus tells Heck to shoot, but much to the children’s amazement, he hands the gun to Atticus. At first Atticus declines his offer, telling Heck to do the job but as time runs out he summons his courage and shoots, killing the animal in one skillful shot.

This event shows a lot about Atticus’ personality. He does something that shocks the children and makes one wonder what else his modesty withholds. Scout and Jem now see their father in a new light where they begin to question whether he is as boring as they once thought. Atticus shows that he never harms anything or anyone unless they are potentially harmful to others. In this incident he shoots the dog to protect the neighbourhood from rabies. He takes control of the situation and remains calm, staying emotionless even when the dog is dead.

Question 4 – Write a lively description of the following characters: Mr. Avery, Mrs. Dubose and Miss Maudie Atkinson.

a) Mr. Avery: Mr. Avery lives opposite Mrs. Dubose. The children seem to know little about him, but take an interest in him after viewing him urinating publicly, an experience that shocks and intrigues them. After this occurrence they look out for him in case he does it again. Mr. Avery is a suspected alcoholic although the children don’t seem to realize it.

” Dill said he must drink a gallon a day”

His actions are abnormal and his behaviour seemed strange ” Mr. Avery sat on the porch every night……and sneezed”.

In chapter 8 Mr. Avery unnerves Scout and Jem with a story explaining Maycomb’s unexpected bad weather.

“”Mr. Avery said it was written on the Rosetta Stone that when children disobeyed their parents, smoked cigarettes and made war on each other the seasons would change.”

Here he makes a successful attempt to make the children feel guilty showing he is not particularly fond of them or, most probably, children in general. The next episode shows Scout and Jem have a similar view of him, when they construct a snowman naming it Mr. Avery.

“Fat in the middle and little bitty arms.”

“Big stomach”

“succeeded in making Mr. Avery look cross”

The children describe some of his physical features and their perception of an angry man.

This image of a large man is further enhanced when he struggles to escape through the window of a burning down house.

“Mr. Avery was wedged tightly.”

Overall, the children see Mr. Avery as a physically awkward man and one of whom they are wary.

b) Mrs. Dubose: The first impression of Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is a negative one. Scout first mentions her in the early part of chapter 11 where, as soon as her name is mentioned, the reader realises that Mrs. Dubose is not one of Scout’s favourite people.

“Previous encounters left me with no desire for more”

It seems encounters with Mrs. Dubose have, more often than not, been bad ones. Scout and Jem see her as a woman who is untrusting of children and they believe the rumours that are spread about her,

“It was rumoured that she kept a C.S.A. pistol concealed amongst her numerous shawls and wraps.”

Mrs. Dubose and her constant criticisms of trivial matters frustrate scout,

“don’t you say hey to me you ugly girl”

Jem and Scout’s overall feelings of disapproval are summed up in one, harsh sentence.

“Jem and I hated her”

All early descriptions of her are derogatory, “Wrathful gaze,” “ruthless interrogation” “she was vicious”

She often makes prejudice comments and doesn’t agree with Atticus defending a Negro and calls him a “nigger – lover”. Despite these rude remarks, on one occasion Atticus describes her as “the bravest person I knew” It is not immediately obvious what he sees in the women but if one looks beyond her vicious front a sick and kindly lady can be perceived. She doesn’t present many signs of her true feelings so in the children’s eyes she is seen only as a hurtful, abusive lady. Atticus, however, looks beyond her facade and he sees a brave woman, suffering but determined to die an honorable drug-free death.

Although she puts forward a racist front, this too may be part of her fa�ade, as she still respects Atticus despite his more liberal views.

c) Miss Maudie Atkinson:

Miss Maudie is another of the Finch’s neighbours. The family and Miss. Maudie are fond of each other and she is a generous neighbour,

“I had always enjoyed the free run of Miss Maudie’s yard”

“our tacit treaty with Miss. Maudie was that we could play on her lawn, eat her scuppernongs if we didn’t jump on the arbor.”

This shows her warm nature and fondness of the children.

They often go to her for information on subjects their father preferred not to discuss e.g., The Radleys. She is a god-fearing lady with strong religious views, who often makes biblical references in her speech,

“I’m just a baptist”

“God’s outdoors”

“reading the bible”

She is also a person who far prefers spending time in the garden and not inside.

“Miss. Maudie hated her house: time spent indoors was rime wasted.”

Despite her warm nature she is firm with the children and they realise this’

” Miss Maudie’s voice was enough to shut anyone up.”

She does not tolerate ignorance and is harsh when the children mimic boo Radley, “His names Arthur and he’s still alive.”

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