Study Guide

The Cay Sacrifice

By Theodore Taylor


Then my mother pointed. I saw a tall man standing on the wall of Fort Amsterdam, waving at us. I knew it was my father. I'll never forget that tall, lonely figure standing on the sea wall. (2.47)

Even though his family is leaving Curaçao, Phillip's dad stays behind because of the war.

I'll never forget that first hour of knowing I was blind. I was so frightened that it was hard for me to breathe. It was as if I'd been put inside something that was all dark and I couldn't get out.

I remember that at one point my fear turned to anger. Anger at Timothy for not letting me stay in the water with my mother, and anger at her because I was on the raft. I began hitting him and I remember him saying, "If dat will make you bettah, go 'ead." (4.64-65)

Even though he is blameless, Timothy lets Phillip hit him, selflessly absorbing the child's anger. Why does Timothy let Phillip treat him this way?

He grabbed my hair with one hand and used his other arm to drag me back toward the raft. I had turned on my face and was trying to hold my breath. Then I felt my body being thrown, and I was back on the boards of the raft, gasping for air. I knew that Timothy was still in the water because I could hear splashing and cursing. (6.5)

Timothy risks his life to save Phillip from the shark-infested waters.

With me on his back, he splashed ashore, and judging from the time it took, the raft wasn't very far out. Then he lifted me down again. (7.7)

Timothy carries Phillip on his back to the shore of the cay. What does this moment symbolize?

I was starting to be less dependent on the vine rope, and sometimes it seemed to me that Timothy was trying hard to make me independent of him. I thought I knew why, but I did not talk to him about it. I did not want to think about the possibility of Timothy dying and leaving me alone on the cay. (11.10)

We learn that Timothy is training Phillip to be independent so the child can survive after he is gone.

Yet I could not help worrying. The thought of losing either of them was unbearable. If something bad happened on the cay, I wanted it to happen to all of us. (14.12)

Having grown to love Timothy and Stew Cat, Phillip would rather die with them than remain alone on the island.

Soon I felt water around my ankles. Then it washed to my knees. It would go back and then crash against us again. Timothy was taking the full blows of the storm, sheltering me with his body. When the water receded, it would tug at us, and Timothy's strength would fight against it. I could feel the steel in his arms as the water tried to suck us away. (15.16)

Timothy shields Phillip with his body amidst the violent winds and waves of the hurricane.

Timothy had been cut to ribbons by the wind, which drove the rain and the grains of sand before it. It had flayed his back and his legs until there were very few places that weren't cut. He was bleeding, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. I found his hard, horny hand again, wrapped mine around it, and lay down beside him. (15.39)

Timothy sacrificed his life for Phillip during the storm. Here we see how badly his body was cut and bruised.

I followed it around to the lee side with my fingers. And there they were! Not two or three, but at least a dozen, lashed together, each with a barbed hook and bolt sinker. They were one more part of the legacy Timothy had left me. (16.15)

Even in death, Timothy is still helping Phillip.