The Cay Questions and Answers
by Theodore Taylor

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What are some character traits that describe Phillip in Theodore Taylor's The Cay?

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Phillip Enright, in Theodore Taylor’s novel The Cay, is an 11-year old white American male who has been raised by his mother to view blacks as inherently inferior, a product, no doubt, of his family’s Southern heritage (there are references to their previous life in Virginia).  He, and his friends, have vivid imaginations – hardly unique among children, especially adventurous boys – often pretending to be soldiers defending their island (“imagining we were defending Willemstad against pirates or even the British”) and enjoy exploring the island (the cay) despite warnings by adults about the threat from German naval vessels (“I told you not to go there, Phillip,” she [his mother] said angrily. “We are war! Don’t you understand?”)  Phillip’s mother is very protective of him, forever admonishing the young boy about wandering too far from home (“My mother was always afraid I’d fall of the sea wall, or tumble out of a tree, or cut myself with a pocketknife”).  Despite fears of a German attack on the island, and concerns about his mother’s insistence on taking him back to the United States, Phillip remains relatively upbeat about life in general, and enjoys playing with his friends, especially his Dutch friend Henrik.  That all begins to change, however, when the hypothetical threat of a German attack becomes all too real.  Watching the sudden explosion and sinking of the ship Empire Tern, the brutal realities of the war finally sink in:

“Just as we were ready to go, there was an explosion and we looked toward the sea.  The Empire Tern had vanished in a wall of red flames, and black smoke was beginning to boil into the sky. . .It was a German submarine, surfaced now to watch the ship die.”

The sight of the ship’s sinking with the loss of crew made an indelible impression on Phillip.  The war was no longer a distant event; it was now a part of his life.

Phillip’s character would change the most dramatically, however, when the ship on which he and his mother were sailing, the S.S. Hato, is similarly sunk, leaving the boy orphaned and blind.  The following quotes describe his state of mind at this point in the...

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ik9744 | Student

Phillip was very carrying to Timothy. He protected him in the storm. He gave him foods and things like that. 

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