What are differences between Theodore Taylor's book The Cay and the movie?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Unlike in Theodore Taylor's The Cay, the protagonist Phillip in the 1974 made-for-TV movie of the same title, directed by Patrick Garland, does not start out with overtly racist and hateful sentiments. Instead, in the film, a very loving dependent relationship, much like a father-son relationship, is established right from the start. While Phillip makes one racist remark in the film, it's clear he has not been taught to loathe blacks as "different" the same way he was taught in the book.

In the book, when Phillip first regains consciousness to find himself on a raft with a black man, Phillip's first thoughts are that "he was ugly" (p. 30), that he agrees with his mother for disliking blacks, and he blames his mother for putting him in this situation in which he must be all alone on a raft with a black man. However, with Phillip's physical blindness comes colorblindness, and soon, he values Timothy as a dear friend.

In contrast, in the movie, Phillip displays fear but never hatred. Though afraid of Timothy at first, Phillip is very accepting of Timothy's kindness, compassion, and care early on. Phillip's only racist remark slips out when Timothy tries to teach Phillip how to weave mats out of palm fronds in order to begin teaching him to be independent. When Timothy tells him, "Young bahss, you mus' begin to help wid d'udder wark" (p. 70), Phillip gives a racist response in the film by saying that, as a black laborer, Timothy alone should be doing all the work.

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