Why is Phillip's mom telling Phillip to stay away from the dock in "The Cay"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Phillip likes to go down to the dock because he thinks it is an exciting place, with all kinds of ships coming and going, and sometimes, enemy U-boats visible on the sea.  The Germans have purportedly actually attacked the island of Curacao, but Phillip is young and feels invincible; he is "not frightened, just terribly excited".  His mother, however, is aware that the docks are a dangerous place, and warns Phillip time and again to stay away from there.  She says, "I told you not to go there...we are at war...don't you understand?...You'll be safe if you do what we tell you to do...don't leave the yard again" (Chapter 1).

Even before the war had begun, Phillip's mother had not liked it when her son went to play at the docks, but she had a different reason then.  The black people of the island would congregate there, laughing at the young white boys playing, and congenially tossing them bananas or papayas.  Phillip's mother, who was from Virginia, harbored deeply ingrained prejudices against the blacks, and expressed these attitudes to her son as well.  She told him, "They are not the same as you, Phillip.  They are different and they live differently.  That's the way it must be" (Chapter 3).