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Conflict and resolution in The Cay by Theodore Taylor

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The primary conflict in The Cay by Theodore Taylor is the struggle for survival of Phillip and Timothy after being shipwrecked on a deserted island. Their resolution comes through teamwork and mutual respect, overcoming initial racial prejudices and learning to depend on each other, which ultimately leads to their survival and rescue.

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What is the conflict and resolution in The Cay by Theodore Taylor?

The conflict in this great novel is two-fold. On the one hand, there is the struggle between people (Phillip and Timothy) and nature. The unlikely pair—a black man from West India and a boy who has been blinded by the torpedo blast which shipwrecked them—must fight nature and the elements to stay alive.

On the other hand, young Phillip must overcome his racist tendencies and accept that Timothy is now the only person available to help him in his new vulnerable plight as a blind person.

Phillip and Timothy's struggle to get along has moments of severity in the early stages of the story. In steering them to the cay, Timothy overrode Phillip's desire to stay at sea. It is only when Phillip openly insults Timothy, and Timothy slaps him for his rudeness, that a truce is reached between the two castaways, and this conflict is resolved.

In terms of the bigger conflict—the fact that the two are trapped on an island—this unfortunately only gets half-resolved. Timothy, who had been ill prior to the start of their adventure, dies after protecting Phillip from a storm which sweeps over the cay. Some time later, Phillip manages to capture the attention of a passing plane using a signal fire made from sea grapes, which produce thick plumes of black smoke. He is therefore rescued, thus bringing an end to the book's main conflict.

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What is the conflict and resolution in The Cay by Theodore Taylor?

There are two main conflicts in The Cay: Phillip and Timothy's survival when they are shipwrecked and marooned on an island, and Phillip's ability to overcome the racism he feels toward Timothy.

When Phillip and Timothy are marooned, they have only the few supplies from the lifeboat, and the island has no water source. In addition, they have little hope of escape, as Timothy reluctantly admits to Phillip that he knows the island's location is remote. Phillip is also blind as the result of an injury he sustained during the shipwreck. Timothy and Phillip work together to find food, water, shelter, and everything else they need to survive.

The second conflict is Phillip overcoming racism. His blindness comes on after he has seen Timothy and has had a chance to form an opinion of him. Then he is suddenly dependent on Timothy for everything and has no choice but to learn from him. Phillip selfishly thinks that Timothy is just lazy and doesn't want to do the work himself, but it later occurs to him that Timothy thinks he might not live long, and Phillip would be left alone. Timothy coaxes him into helping, and Phillip learns that he can rely on his other senses and gradually becomes self-sufficient. This is crucial, because Timothy dies and Phillip is left alone on the island. Without Timothy's help, Phillip would not have survived until rescue.

It is also relevant to note their ages. Phillip is a kid and Timothy an old man. Timothy is the natural leader, but he is black, and therefore Phillip considers himself superior.

My father had always taught me to address anyone I took to be an adult as "mister," but Timothy didn't seem to be a mister. Besides, he was black.

Timothy refers to Phillip as "young bahss" until Phillip asks him to call him by his first name. This symbolizes Phillip beginning to regard Timothy as an equal.

When Phillip returns home after being rescued, he spends time with Timothy's friends and is less interested in the friends he had before his ordeal. In short, he has grown up.

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What is the conflict and resolution in The Cay by Theodore Taylor?

One of the conflicts in the book is Phillip's quest to overcome his racism and immaturity. At the beginning of the book, his mother instills racist values in him. After he leaves Curaçao and is marooned on the island with Timothy, a black man, Phillip has to overcome his inherent racism to appreciate that Timothy is not there merely to serve him. Phillip is overbearing and selfish, and he does not believe that he has to listen to Timothy. In addition, stunned by his sudden blindness, Phillip wants to become entirely dependent on Timothy.

Over time, however, Phillip overcomes the personality issues of his youth and begins to appreciate Timothy and treat him as a friend. In addition, with Timothy's help, Phillip begins to regain the mobility and independence he needs to survive, and he is forced to use these skills after Timothy dies on the island. The resolution of Phillip's conflict is that he gains the maturation and skills to be independent and more tolerant.

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What is the conflict and resolution in The Cay by Theodore Taylor?

The central conflict is a man vs. nature conflict.  Phillip and Timothy are stranded on a small island, and the two men must struggle to survive in the face of overwhelming odds.   The struggle to survive is made even more difficult by the physical limitations that both Phillip and Timothy have.  Phillip has been blinded and Timothy is aging and no longer 100% healthy.  That conflict is only half resolved by the end of the book though.  Timothy does not survive the island.  Only Phillip eventually survives to be rescued from the island.  He is reunited with his family and friends, but Phillip has changed so much that he feels distanced from his former friend Henrik.  Phillip's eyesight is restored by an operation, and the story closes with Phillip desiring to find a way to get back to the tiny island.   

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What is the conflict in the book The Cay?

The conflict in The Cay is multifold. First, Phillip, the eleven-year-old white boy stranded on the cay, must deal with the task of surviving on the small cay after he is blinded. He must learn to become more independent and navigate his way around the island while blind. Timothy, the Caribbean man who is stranded with Phillip on the cay, teaches the boy skills to become more independent. These skills become even more vital after Timothy dies, leaving Phillip alone until he is rescued.

In addition, Phillip faces the conflict of dealing with his racist feelings towards Timothy. Phillip's mother taught him to regard black people as lesser, and he must overcome these feelings to learn to not only co-exist with Timothy on the island but also to learn to trust him. It is Timothy who cares for Phillip and teaches him how to survive after being blinded, and Phillip comes to recognize Timothy's humanity. 

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What is the conflict in the book The Cay?

The primary conflict in Theodore Taylor's novel, The Cay, concerns the two main characters--Phillip, an American boy, and Timothy, a West Indian sailor--and their long stay on a deserted island after surviving the torpedoing of their ship. It becomes a story of man versus nature, and how Timothy teaches Phillip, who is blinded when their ship goes down, to fend for himself against the elements. Phillip is initially dependent upon Timothy, but the aging sailor knows that they may be stranded for a long time, and he teaches Phillip how to fish and take care of himself in case he is left alone. Timothy eventually dies, and Phillip uses the lessons learned from his West Indian friend to stay alive until he is rescued. There are other conflicts between the two characters earlier in the story. Phillip, who has been brought up by a racially intolerant mother, has little respect for the "ugly" black man at first, but the boy comes to love the man after he gets to know him. 

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What conflicts are found in Theodore Taylor's The Cay?

A conflict is a struggle within a story. Often the struggle is between the protagonist and antagonist; however, there can be several types of conflict. It should also be noted that there can be internal and external conflicts. During an internal conflict, a character struggles against himself/herself either because the character has conflicting desires or conflicting natures, such as a good vs. evil nature. During external conflicts, the character struggles against something outside of himself/herself, such as against another character, against society, against nature, or even against fate.

We can identify both internal and external conflicts in Theodore Taylor's young reader novel, The Cay. One internal conflict arises when Phillip goes blind. His blindness creates a feeling of helplessness and isolation that Timothy tries to help him overcome. Once the pair go ashore on their cay, Timothy gets busy building a shelter and finding things to eat. He even gets busy making a rope out of vines. At one point, he tells Phillip he needs to start helping out with the work and tries to teach him how to weave mats for them to sleep on, but Phillip gives up in frustration, feeling absolutely helpless. His feeling of helplessness is due to the fact that he wants his sight back and wants to be able to do things easily as he used to be able when he could see.  Since he is having difficulty accepting his blindness and finding solutions around it, we see that Phillip is experiencing an internal conflict. It's the moment Phillip realizes Timothy is making him a rope to help him move around the island by himself that he starts to feel a sense of gratitude and bravery that enable him to overcome his internal conflict.

Many external conflicts can also be seen throughout the book. One external conflict concerns society's racism, which is a central theme in the book. When Phillip first meets Timothy, Phillip dislikes him, resists getting to know him, and thinks he is ugly--all due to the prejudices Phillip has been taught by his parents and society at large. Yet, Phillip owes Timothy his life; therefore, Phillip is conflicted concerning whether or not to accept or reject Timothy as a result of the influence of society's prejudices.  However, despite society's prejudices, the more Timothy strives to help Phillip, especially help Phillip become independent, the more Phillip grows to value Timothy. By the end of the book, after Phillip is rescued, Phillip is such a changed person that he no longer fits in with the society he once knew.

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What is the solution to the conflict in Theodore Taylor's The Cay?

There are actually multiple conflicts with multiple solutions within Theodore Taylor's The Cay. Two are internal conflicts that concern Phillip's racist attitude and his lack of independence. The third is an external conflict concerning Phillip and Timothy's fight for survival. Of those conflicts, the two most dominant are Phillip's lack of independence and the fight for survival. The first we can call a character vs. self conflict, while the second is a character vs. nature conflict.

Phillip begins to resolve his dominant character vs. self conflict of lack of independence when he and Timothy arrive on the island. Having gone blind from a severe blow to the head, Phillip feels helpless. He manages to help Timothy write the word HELP in the sand and to pull vines to make a rope, but gives up helping at that point. However, once Phillip begins to realize just how much Timothy is doing for his sake, such as weaving a rope he can use to move around the island on his own, Phillip begins to want to help Timothy in return and to be willing to become more independent. Through Timothy's assistance, Phillip learns how to weave mats, build a shelter, explore the island on his own, and to fish. This conflict reaches its climax the moment Timothy sacrifices his own life by protecting Phillip from the winds of a severe hurricane, a hurricane that has hit the region out of season. At first, after Timothy's death, Phillip feels ready to give up. He cries after burying Timothy and thinks to himself that, except for Stew Cat, he was "blind and alone on a forgotten cay" (p. 112). Fortunately, Timothy has already taught him that the way to survive is by immersing one's self deep in work, so Phillip immediately sets to work rebuilding his camp.

The external conflict of character vs. nature is also soon resolved after the hurricane. Since Phillip had gained enough independence to be able to relight the signal fire, he is soon sighted by a plane and rescued by a small boat.

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