The Cay Theodore Taylor Menu Introduction Background Discussion Starters
The Cay: Introduction The year is 1942. World War II is raging. Eleven-year-old Phillip Enright lives on the island of Curaçao, in the Dutch West Indies.
The Cay: Introduction After German submarines attack some oil tankers off the island, Phillip’s mother decides to take him back to the United States, where he will be safer. But on the way their ship is torpedoed.
The Cay: Introduction Waking up on a life raft, Phillip soon his loses his eyesight from an injury. His only companions are a cat and an old, black sailor named Timothy. Timothy knows a lot about survival, but he is very different from Phillip.
The Cay: Introduction Prejudiced against black people, but dependent on Timothy for his survival, Phillip faces an inner conflict. How should he treat Timothy? Can he learn to trust him, and even like him?
The Cay: Introduction At the same time, both characters face an external conflict. Struggling for survival, they are in conflict with nature and with their circumstances.
The Cay: Introduction After a few days, they land on a tiny island. It is remote and uninhabited. There is little food or water. The chances for rescue are slim.
The Cay: Introduction Can Timothy and Phillip survive? How will their relationship develop as they live together on the island? What changes might take place in Phillip?
The Cay: Background Cays—also called keys—are small, low islands.
The Cay: Background Cays develop on the edges of coral reefs. • Sand, coral, and debris build up. • Birds drop seeds. • Plants grow from the seeds. • The plants make the cay more stable.
The Cay: Background Many cays rise only five to ten feet above the level of high tide. Even a fairly large cay can easily be destroyed by a hurricane or other severe storm.
The Cay: Background The cay on which Phillip and Timothy land is located in the West Indies— a chain of islands located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Cay: Background The West Indies includes Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Curaçao, the Bahamas, Grenada, and the Virgin Islands, plus many smaller islands.
The Cay: Background Originally, American Indians inhabited the West Indies. After Christopher Columbus discovered the islands in 1492, various European countries started to take them over.
Jamaica Grenada the Bahamas The Cay: Background Today, most of the islands and island groups in the West Indies are independent nations. However, some are still partly controlled by other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.
The Cay: Background U-boats, the submarines used by Germany during World War II, were among the most feared weapons of the war.
The Cay: Discussion Starters Discuss (1) Timothy is not an educated man, but he does understand human nature and survival. • What other characters can you think of, from movies or books, that are uneducated yet wise? • Choose one such character and describe his or her special traits. If you met this character in difficult circumstances, would you listen to what he or she had to say? Explain.
The Cay: Discussion Starters Discuss (2) • Name some other survival stories with which you are familiar, and briefly describe their plots. • Why do you think stories of survival are so popular in the world of literature?