© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Cay

The Cay


by Theodore Taylor

The Cay Theme of Sacrifice

If we were fancy-pants literary critics, we might say that The Cay is a meditation on sacrificial love. What do we mean by that? Well, the novel really wants us to think about what it means to give things up – either for the people we love or for the good of humanity.

There are tons of super-heroic acts of sacrifice throughout this novel. First, there's the backdrop of World War II and the people who lose their lives during the conflict. Phillip's dad doesn't die in the war, but he does stay on the island out of duty to his country while the rest of his family leaves. Then there are the sacrifices Timothy makes to protect Phillip on the cay. In the ultimate act of selflessness, Timothy shelters Phillip from the hurricane with his own body, sacrificing his life. The novel holds up these instances of sacrifice as heroic and necessary deeds in the face of senseless violence.

Questions About Sacrifice

  1. Why won't the Chinese sailors ride on the lake tankers? Would you ride the tankers if you were in their position?
  2. Why won't Phillip's father leave the island of Curaçao? Do you think he's acting bravely or foolishly?
  3. Why does Timothy teach Phillip to fish?
  4. What sacrifices does Timothy make for Phillip? Does Phillip make any sacrifices for Timothy?

Chew on This

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

In The Cay, sacrifice is the greatest form of love.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...