In The Cay, by Theodore Taylor, should Phillip's father have insisted that his family remain on Curacao?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Opinions will vary on this issue. Here's mine: No. Phillip's father was right not to insist that they remain on the island. He was right to allow Phillip and his mother to make the perilous journey by boat to the safety of Virginia.

Originally, Phillip's father wanted them to stay on the island because he believed the trip would pose more dangers than actually just staying put. The invading German forces were getting closer and closer to their island, it's true, even blowing up a refinery in nearby Aruba. And their otherwise peaceful town was all abuzz with preparations for an attack: checking on their blackout curtains, making sure they had food and water stored up, and so on. Schools were canceled, and soldiers manned the island's fort. People were on edge, to say the least.

Phillip's father had no way of knowing that his hunch would be correct: that the trip would be more dangerous than the risk of staying at home. He only knew that both options were dangerous--and doing either posed a risk, so there was no safe option available. It would be unfair to blame Phillip's father for the torpedo that attacked the ship, or for Phillip's physical and mental hardships during the time he was marooned on the island with Timothy. Phillip's father couldn't have predicted these events and was forced to protect his family by making a decision based on limited information.

And to my mind, he made the right choice. Say you're given the option to stay where you are and wait for the enemy to find you, or instead make a run for it and hope the enemy doesn't catch you while you're on your way. What would you do? I would run, just like Phillip and his mother did. At least you're a moving target then, not a sitting duck--and at least you're taking some sort of action to try to keep yourself safe.