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The Cay
The Cay
by Theodore Taylor
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The Cay Theme of Appearances

Ever hear the phrase "looks can be deceiving"? On the surface of things, the two main characters of The Cay appear to be very different. Phillip is 11 years old, American, and white. Timothy is over 70, West Indian, and black. What could these two characters possibly have in common? What in the world would they even talk about? Plenty, it turns out. The Cay asks us to put aside our preconceived notions about people, places, and things in order to see the world in a new way. Through the metaphor of Phillip's blindness, the novel calls our attention to the idea that we must change how we "see the world." (Psst. You can read a lot more about this in "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory: Blindness.")

Questions About Appearances

  1. What is Phillip's initial opinion of Timothy? On what does he base his opinion? How does he describe Timothy?
  2. What is Phillip's mother's opinion of West Indian and black people? Why does she think this way?
  3. How does Phillip get around the island if he's blind?
  4. How does Phillip's appearance change once he lands on the cay?
  5. How does Phillip's blindness influence the importance he places on appearances?
  6. Do you think Phillip ever would have learned not to judge people based on appearances if he hadn't gone blind? Are there other ways to learn this lesson?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The biggest differences between Phillip and Timothy lie in their appearances.

Our appearances are an important part of ourselves, just not the whole part.

Next Page: Sacrifice
Previous Page: Man and the Natural World

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