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The Cay by Theodore Taylor is the story of an eleven-year-old white boy named Phillip Enright Jr.and an older black man named Timothy. Timothy and Phillip are an unlikely pair who end up stranded together on an island, the cay to which the title refers.
From the beginning Phillip has little but disdain for Timothy because Timothy is black and therefore, according to this rather spoiled boy who has little intimate experience with people of color except, presumably, as servants, Timothy is not worthy of his respect. He considers Timothy to be ugly and ignorant, and he is not shy about communicating those feelings to Timothy. Despite that, the older man is kind to Phillip and single-handedly keeps the boy alive in a rather desperate situation.
Things are not going well on the island, and Timothy fears that the cause of their bad luck is "jumbi," or evil spirits; even worse, he fears that Stew Cat might be the source of the evil spirits. He cannot get rid of the cat because Phillip is so attached to it, so he has to get creative. In an attempt to get rid of the "jumbi," Timothy takes Stew Cat and puts him on a raft anchored just offshore. Because Phillip is blind, he cannot see the cat on the raft and has to ask Timothy where Stew Cat is during Timothy's ritual. Timothy tells him the truth:
"off d'shore...on d'raff."
Since he cannot kill the cat, Timothy makes a wooden representation of the cat and uses it to kill “the evil jumbi” in a ritual involving sticking nails into the image of the cat. Stew Cat is probably not happy on the raft; however, he would probably have liked it less if he had been part of Timothy's ritual.
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