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Phillip experiences a wide range of emotions and undergoes profound changes during the first seven chapters of the novel. At the beginning, he is a boy in love with the island and curious about the once distant events of World War II. Now, however, the Germans have attacked, destroying an oil refinery on neighboring Aruba and then "they blew up six of our small lake tankers." U-boats are spotted off Willemstad, and Phillip revels in the opportunity to see one from a distance. In Chaper 2, Phillip is "saddened" to leave Curacao when it is decided that it will be safer for him and his mother back in Virginia. When the S.S. Hato is torpedoed, Phillip is left stranded upon a raft with an old sailor, Timothy. Separated from his mother, Phillip soon becomes blind and totally dependent upon Timothy. He is "frightened" and "angry at Timothy for not letting me stay in the water with my mother." Phillip is uncertain about Timothy's decision to put ashore on the little uncharted cay, and when Timothy goes off alone to explore, he feels "helpless." When Timothy returns, Phillip tells him to "Never leave me alone..." Chapter 7 ends with Phillip "slowly and thoughtfully" considering Timothy's new admission: that the small cay is part of the Devil's Mouth, a treacherous area where few ships sail, and that their stay on the island may be longer than expected.
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