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Themes

We're usually friends with people with whom we have things in common: people in our homeroom class, people on our sports team, people who play the same games that we do... But what about people who are different from us? People who like different music, eat different food, or live in a different neighborhood? Or even people who are very different from us? People who speak a different language, are from a different country, or believe things that might seem strange to us. Can we ever be friends with those people?

For Theodore Taylor, the answer is absolutely yes. On the surface, Phillip and Timothy could hardly be more different. Phillip is an 11-year-old American. Timothy is an older West Indian man who was orphaned and never learned how to read or write. Despite their differences, these two individuals create friendship based on mutual respect and love. The Cay teaches us a lesson about the importance of connecting with people who are not necessarily like us.

Questions About Friendship

  1. Who is Phillip's best friend in the beginning of the book? At the end?
  2. Why does Phillip ask Timothy if they can be friends? What does Timothy say?
  3. Give three examples of Timothy being a friend to Phillip. Give three examples of Phillip being a friend to Timothy.
  4. What does friendship mean to Phillip by the end of the book? What does friendship mean to you?
  5. How are your friends similar to you? How are they different?

Chew on This

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

It's through our friends that we learn who we are – and who we can be.

In The Cay, friendship based on mutual respect is more lasting than friendship based only on sharing a common background.

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