The Cay Questions and Answers
by Theodore Taylor

The Cay book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the main theme of The Cay?

Expert Answers info

clane eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write658 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and Law and Politics

The theme is best represented by Phillip's blindness. Phillip is a young boy who has been conditioned to believe that colored people are somehow beneath them because of their color and in his defense, much of the world, at the time, believed this as well, including Timothy. Timothy demonstrates "knowing his place" by always calling Phillip "young bahss" or "young boss".

Soon after the shipwreck and Phillip's head injury he becomes totally blind. After several months on the Cay Timothy teaches Phillip how to survive and be independent because he knows that his own death is near. Little by little Phillip begins to see Timothy as a friend and a mentor rather than a slave or a lesser being.

Phillip actually does not even see Timothy as "colored" any longer. He loses his feelings of prejudice and superiority as a result of being lost on this island.

Some other themes might be self reliance, friendship overcoming adversity, and grieving losses.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

brendawm eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write322 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Actually, upon a little further research, I am more inclined to lean towards the themes of racism and prejudice as the main themes of The Cay.  I believe that Taylor’s intention was to demonstrate the elimination of prejudices based on the model friendship shared by Phillip and Timothy. Check out the link below to read more on this particular theme.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

ik9744 | Student

The theme is about the friendship of two different races back in the days.

scarpal | Student

The main theme of this novel is very intricate.  It deals with the social injustice of the World War 2 era.  Mainly, the focus is on racism between blacks and whites.

mergatroyd | Student

Timothy states the main theme of the novel when he says, "Why be feesh differen' color, or flower be differen' color? I true don' know, Phileep, but I true believe, beneath the skin, tis all the same."

Beneath the skin, we're all the same.