The Cay Questions and Answers
by Theodore Taylor

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In The Cay, how and why did Phillip's attitude change towards Timothy? What was the ultimate sacrifice that Timothy made for Phillip?

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When Phillip is first stranded at sea and then on an island with Timothy after Phillip's ship explodes, Phillip is dismissive and condescending towards Timothy. Phillip has learned from his mother that black people are inferior, and he treats Timothy as if the older man is his servant. In fact, Timothy calls Phillip "young bahss" to reflect the boy's attitude towards him.

Over time, Phillip recognizes Timothy's patience and wisdom, as Timothy teaches Phillip how to survive on the island after Phillip is blinded. Phillip has to rely entirely on Timothy, and he begins to recognize Timothy's humanity and to be concerned about him, as Timothy is concerned about him. During a tropical storm, Timothy makes the ultimate sacrifice, as he protects Phillip with his own body and dies as a result. By this time, Phillip mourns for his lost friend.

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Phillip treated Timothy with disrespect. He demanded more of the water rations than was his share, refused to help set up shelter, and viewed Timothy with stereotypical disdain. He found Timothy's inability to read or write further reason to ignore his advice.

This begins to change when Timothy finally snaps and slaps him for his behavior. This seems to awaken some respect for Timothy, and he begins to see the value in his advice for survival and self-sufficiency.

Timothy's ultimate sacrifice comes when he shields Phillip from the worst of the effects of the hurricane, despite being stricken with malaria. Timothy ultimately dies from the injuries he received.

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