What is the main message of The Cay by Theodore Taylor?  

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kathik eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Theodore Taylor imparts several messages in his novel The Cay, but I think the most important one is that of anti-racism. Phillip, the young boy in the book, has been raised to believe that black people are inferior to him. His mother does not like for him to go down to the docks where many Black men work, and she tells him,

"They are not the same as you, Phillip. They are different and they live differently. That's the way it must be." (Taylor 36)

When the ship Phillip and his mother are aboard is torpedoed, Phillip ends up on a raft with Timothy, a black man who worked on the ship. Almost immediately Phillip decides he does not like Timothy, and he acts like a spoiled brat, demanding water and acting as though he is better than Timothy. Eventually, though, Phillip realizes that Timothy really does have his best interest at heart. Timothy even protects Phillip with his own body when a huge storm hits the cay where they end up stranded.

By the time Timothy dies in the book, Phillip loves him like he does his own father. The message is that the color of one's skin does not define who that person is. Most children at some time in their lives are told by an adult that everyone is the same on the inside and that the color of one's skin does not matter. This book brings that message home.

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