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Themes

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. Theodore Taylor explores a similar dream in The Cay. He begins with a main character – an 11-year-old white boy named Phillip – who has bigoted views on race. Once Phillip goes blind, he is forced to depend upon a black West Indian man named Timothy to navigate the world around him. Needless to say, his worldview changes dramatically. Taylor's novel explores race relations by dramatizing an unlikely friendship that rises above racial boundaries.

Questions About Race

  1. Where does Phillip pick up his bigoted ideas about race?
  2. What country is Timothy from? Who are his parents? How old is he?
  3. Timothy believes that underneath our skin we are all the same. Does Phillip believe this? Do you?
  4. Why does Phillip choose to associate mainly with the black West Indian people at the end of the novel?
  5. If you know the story of Robinson Crusoe, how are the relationships of the castaways similar or different in the two novels?

Chew on This

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

I [agree/disagree] with the critics who say that Taylor's portrayal of Timothy is racist.

Timothy's literal blindness allows him to become figuratively color-blind.

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