Throughout The Cay, Timothy expresses himself through dialect. How was that both a negative & positive thing in the portrayal of his character & culture?

Asked on by amoney99

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Although Timothy's West Indian dialect is somewhat difficult for the reader to interpret at times--just as it must have been for Phillip--it gives the story an authentic feel that would not have been found had the author written Timothy's dialogue in plain English. Phillip didn't think much of Timothy's dialect when they first met. Phillip's mother's negative attitude about black people had influenced him somewhat, and he considered himself superior to the much older and more experienced sailor. A native of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Timothy's language made him seem intellectually inferior to Phillip as well; and Phillip discovered later that Timothy could not read or write. But Phillip came to love Timothy and his speech, and at one point he even honored Timothy by mimicking him when he said

     "Dis is outrageous, hombuggin' good feesh 'ole."
     He (Timothy) laughed with pleasure.

At the end of the story, after he has been rescued, Phillip returns to Willemstad, where he spends as much time as possible

... along St. Anna Bay, and at the Ruyterkade market talking to the black people. I liked the sound of their voices... I felt close to them.

And Phillip one day hopes to return to the cay where Timothy is buried, so he can speak to him once again.

I'll say, "Dis b'dat outrageous cay, eh, Timothy?"

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