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Themes

Violence can be defined in a lot of different ways. It can be "an exertion of physical force," like a violent slap on the face; a "destructive action," like a violent storm; or even a "clashing or jarring quality," like violently loud music. Like the dictionary, Theodore Taylor's The Cay depicts many different kinds of violence and defines them in different ways. We see the violence of war, violence in the natural world, and violence in human relationships. Some instances of violence are painted negatively, while others are shown as necessary. Whatever the case, violent conflict is a constant in the world of The Cay.

Questions About Violence

  1. What happens to Phillip's views on war when he sees the Empire Tern blown up by a German torpedo?
  2. Why does Phillip's mother want to leave Curaçao?
  3. What happens to Phillip after Timothy slaps him? How did you feel reading about an older man hitting a boy? Was it justified? Was it necessary?
  4. Why do the birds attack Phillip when he wanders into their nesting ground?
  5. Why doesn't Phillip ever dive in the fishing hole again after being bitten by the moray eel?
  6. How does violence in the natural world compare to human violence?

Chew on This

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

Violence is sometimes justified, like World War II or when Timothy slapped some sense into Phillip.

Timothy shouldn't have hit Phillip. There is always an alternative to violence.

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