The dedication of the book refers to the "dream" of Dr. Martin Luther King, which in essence was a dream that all men will one day be judged not "by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". The central theme of The Cay is the deep appreciation and friendship that develops between Phillip and Timothy when they are stranded together on a raft after their ship is torpedoed. Phillip has grown up in Virginia and on the Dutch island of Curacao, two places where blacks were distrusted and discriminated against in the years before the second world war. Phillip has been taught that blacks are "different" and not to be associated with, and he at first treats Timothy rudely and imperiously, as if he were an inferior. After Phillip is blinded, however, and forced to depend upon Timothy for his very survival, he forgets about his companion's color and comes to appreciate and love the man, who out of a deep sense of love and sacrifice of his own, literally, in a Christ-like manner, gives up his life so that Phillip can live. With the impediment of color taken away, Phillip learns the worth of Timothy's character, and finds him to be a man to whom he owes a debt he can never repay.
In the dedication of The Cay, the author says that Dr. King's dream "can only come true if the very young know and understand". By writing the book with a young audience in mind, he hopes that, through reading about Phillip's experience with Timothy, the young will come to a better understanding of the importance of looking at individuals without judging them by the color of their skin.
Theo Taylor dedicated ‘the Cay’ to Dr King’s dream because Dr King’s dream was ‘I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character,’ and what Theo Taylor was aiming to achieve by writing this book was that as this book is written for a young audience he was hoping that by reading this book the young of the world will learn to look at the individual and not judge people because of the colour of their skin. He wanted to make Dr King’s dream come true but it ‘can only come true if the very young know and understand.’