What important physical change dose Phillip experience in Theodore Taylor's The Cay?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter Three of Theodore Taylor's The Cay, Phillip awakens on a raft, having been saved by a black man named Timothy. Phillip's head aches, and Timothy informs him that he had been badly hit on the head when the other torpedo hit the ship.

By the middle of Chapter Four, a full day and a night have passed. Timothy has warned him not to look directly into the sun. He even broke boards off of the raft to build a shelter for them in order to keep themselves out of the sun. However, after their first very cold night on the raft, Phillip's head aches even more. Plus, Phillip notices that his vision is growing hazy. Timothy tells him to sleep some more. When he wakes, his head hurts less, but he is also completely blind. Phillip reflects on his dawning realization he is blind in the following passage:

I'll never forget that first hour of knowing I was blind. I was so frightened that it was hard for me to breathe. It was as if I'd been put inside something that was all dark and I couldn't get out. (p. 46)

Yet, Phillip's physical blindness is also symbolic of his psychological blindness. Phillip has been psychologically blind all of his life due to the prejudices he has been raised to believe. Plus, his upbringing has left him dependent on others. The more he gets to know Timothy, the more his psychological blindness lifts.