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The Cay

The Cay


by Theodore Taylor

Character Clues

Character Analysis

Nationality, Race

The Cay is filled with people from different cultural backgrounds: West Indian, Dutch, Chinese, American, and more. (See "Setting" for more on this.) We get white characters like Phillip and Henrik, and black characters like Timothy. While it may be tempting to use nationality or race as a way to sort out the different characters, the novel encourages us to look deeper. Timothy puts it best:

Why b'feesh different color, or flower b'different color? I true don' know, Phill-eep, but I true tink beneath d'skin is all d'same." (10.13)

Shmoop Caveat: Some critics have questioned Taylor's depiction of Timothy, arguing that the character can be interpreted as a racist caricature, especially because of the way his dialogue is written (source). Keep this point of view in mind as you read. Do you agree with the criticism, or with Taylor, who says the charges of racism are "nonsense"? What's your point of view?