The Cay is a children’s war novel written by Theodore Taylor. It is a classic story about hard survival in an island engulfed by war. The protagonist in the story is an American boy called Phillip who experiences a harsh reality of war on the coast of Venezuela. A blast then occurs which injures and renders him blind. Things get worse when he gets stranded in a remote cay, and his only company is that of a West Indian black man called Timothy. They are both forced to deal with challenges, such as having to find food, shelter, and enduring the tropical tempests.
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As much as several critics have brought into question the way the black West Indian is depicted as a racist, I think that this book is a great work of artistry and imagination. Theodore Taylor brought out the idea that people must have been willing to overlook their cultural backgrounds and face a common issue for the survival of both of them. Phillip is a young white boy who meets and later befriends Timothy, a black West Indian man who is older than he is.
The two are not only separated by the stereotypes and color of their skins. With his mother gone and having been torpedoed, Phillip is left in a world where the nearest person he can rely on is the black boy, Timothy. Although Phillip has no personal views about black people, he knows and holds his mother’s view that black people are not nice (Taylor, 2002). This gets their relationship off to a poor start.
The blindness of Phillip soon begins to wear out as he starts depending on Timothy. He begins to overlook their race difference and realizes one thing that they are both the same. In one instance, it is described how he sleeps with Timothy in the same bed for the second month in a row and begins to see a different person with a strong and kind personality. They are forced to overlook their personal prejudices that they may hold against each other.
Both get infested with German war submarines in the waters of the Caribbean, but instead of getting divided by their differences, they create a form of friendship in their small world that shields them from the evils and dangers around them. Given that it was during World War II, their friendship created a beacon of hope in the midst of a chapter in world history that was too dark (Anderson, 2012). They proved that it was possible for individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds to embrace their humanity in the midst of inhumanity.
Many may argue that Timothy is depicted as a person with black chauvinism, but I strongly think that Theodore Taylor tries to get us to understand that there comes a time when we all have to put aside our cultural differences and embrace each other’s ethnicity and differences. I also think he wants us to develop a sense of concern, especially towards those who really need us, regardless of our cultural background. As Timothy gets older and nears to death
Anderson,N. (2012). Elementary Children’s Literature: Infancy Through Age 13. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
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Taylor, T. (2002). The Cay. New York: Yearling.