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The Cay

The Cay


by Theodore Taylor

Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?

At the end of the novel (Chapter 19) we see a lot of the book's conflicts resolved. Well, sort of. Here's a breakdown:

Phillip is reunited with his parents.

Phillip meets up with his parents at long last, but he struggles to tell them about his friendship with Timothy. (In the end, he doesn't.) His mother apologizes to him, but there is no dialogue between the two to demonstrate their reconciliation. On the whole, not a lot of communication happens, which leaves us at Shmoop feeling a little unsatisfied. In Taylor's defense, he seems more concerned with Phillip's relationships on the cay than those off the cay.

Phillip's vision is miraculously restored.

Phillip's surgery to restore his sight is a deus ex machina plot move if we've ever seen one. One procedure in New York and the kid can see again? Why do you think Taylor chose to give Phillip his sight back? What would Phillip's life be like if he didn't have his sight restored? How would you have written the ending?

Phillip returns to Curaçao.

When Phillip returns to Curaçao we know for sure that he has fully matured. His friend Henrik seems much younger now, and he hangs with the black West Indian people instead because they remind him of Timothy. He's experienced quite a lot for an 11-year-old kid.

Phillip dreams of returning to the cay.

The final image in the book is of Phillip studying charts of the Caribbean looking for his little cay. Life on the cay with Timothy is a dear memory, and he longs to return to it. How might Phillip revisit the cay in a less literal sense? Would it be possible to live in the real world with the same values of friendship, love, and respect as he did on the cay with Timothy?

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