At the beginning of the book, Phillip is spoiled and naive. For example, after German submarines have blown up tankers in the neighboring island of Aruba, he asks his father, "Why can't we go out and fight them?" (page 16). He treats the war as if it were a lark until the boat he is on is sunk by a German submarine.
After Phillip is rescued by Timothy, a black man, Phillip treats Timothy with a great deal of disrespect. When Phillip keeps asking for water, though there is only a limited supply, Timothy does not allow him to have any. Phillip thinks, "It was then that I began to learn what a stubborn old man he could be. I began to dislike Timothy" (page 36). Part of what Phillip dislikes is that Timothy does not give him what he wants, and Phillip is too naive to understand that Timothy is rationing water for their own mutual good. In addition, Phillip is spoiled and racist, and he does not like that a black man is not giving into his demands. He recalls that his mother said that black people were "different" than he was, and he seems to agree at this point in the book. Phillip maintains that a schooner will find him, though Timothy is not sure, because Phillip believes that he is more important than others and that his family is more powerful than the German subs. Over time, Phillip will change to become more respectful of others, less spoiled, and less naive.