How did Phillip end up getting separated from his mother in The Cay?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Phillip’s ship is torpedoed and he is separated from his mother getting into life boats.

Phillip’s mother is concerned that they are not safe.  It is decided that the two will leave Curacao.  It is World War II, and Germans have attacked nearby.  Phillip’s mother does not feel the island is safe anymore. 

They board the S.S. Hato, because his mother is too afraid to fly, even though his father says flying would be safer.  At three o’clock in the morning, it is torpedoed.  When he and his mother are getting into life boats, they get separated when one capsizes.

The bow tilted downward, and the next thing I knew we were all in the water. I saw my mother near me and yelled to her. Then something hit me from above. (Ch. 3)

Four hours later, Phillip wakes up to see that he is no longer with his mother.  He opens his eyes to see that he is with “a huge, very old Negro” on a raft. This is Timothy.  He recognizes him from the deck gang of the Hato, so he is no too alarmed, but he is upset because he is not with his mother.  He also has some prejudices against him because of his race.

I looked around for my mother, but there was no one else on the raft. Just this huge Negro, myself, and a big black and gray cat that was licking his haunches. (Ch. 3)

It will be some time now that Phillip will have to learn how to manage without his mother and his normal life.  Things are going to be difficult.  He is starting to go blind.

This is the story of a boy who blames everything that happens to him on someone else, and trusts no one.  It is time to grow up, and learn survival skills, in this coming of age story.  He will also need to learn how to depend on someone else, even the last person he would expect.