In Theodore Taylor's The Cay, what was the turning point for Phillip and Timothy's friendship?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Chapter 9 in Theodore Taylor's young reader's novel The Cay marks the turning point between Phillip and Timothy's relationship. It is in this chapter that he and Timothy get into a quarrel, and Phillip has an epiphany.

Timothy had been busy on the island building a shelter, gathering things to eat, and weaving a rope out of vines that would stretch from their shelter on the hill down to their signal fire on the beach. Phillip had helped Timothy pull the vines for the rope, but while Timothy busily wove the rope, Phillip sat with his back against a palm tree, feeling helpless. It's at this point that Timothy says to Phillip, "Young bahss, you mus' begin to help wid d'udder wark" (p. 70). Phillip protests, reminding Timothy he is blind; Timothy replies that hands can still see even when eyes cannot. He then tells Phillip to weave mats for them to sleep on out of palm fronds and tries to show him how to do it. Phillip gives a halfhearted attempt but soon gives up in frustration. In his anger and frustration, Phillip yells all of the insults against Timothy he has been harboring in his heart since he met Timothy, resulting in Timothy slapping him.

At that moment, Phillip is overcome by shame, but, most importantly, it dawns on him that the rope Timothy is busily making is for Phillip, to help Phillip get around the island independently. This epiphany helps Phillip see how selfless and caring Timothy is. Phillip then gives weaving the mats another try and says to Timothy, "I want to be your friend," to which Timothy replies, "Young bahss, you 'ave always been my friend," marking the turning point in their relationship (p. 72).

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