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Essay on Character Conflicts In The Cay By Theodore Taylor

Throughout the book ‘The Cay’, a book written by Theodore Taylor, the main character, Phillip, through many changes with the different conflicts he has to face, develops independence, determination, and satisfaction. He starts as dependent on his parents and Timothy, ungrateful and disrespectful, and troublesome. But through having to face with conflicts such as the hurricane, becoming blind, Timothy’s death, and the boat crash, he becomes the aforementioned character traits; Having to deal with these serious topics as well as being mentally and physically immature, he changes immensely as a character.

In essence, Phillip establishes independence after experiencing Timothy’s death, evident by when he was able to survive by himself both mentally and physically while simultaneously being blind. At the beginning of the story, he is dependent on his parents, his father, especially, begging them not to leave the island and becoming angry when he does not get his way. This can be seen in the book when it says ‘Suddenly, I felt hollow inside. Then I became angry and accused her (Mother) of being a coward.. That night when he (Father) got home. I told him | wanted to stay with him..

Then I talked to my Mother about staying.. she became very upset… ‘ (Pages 24-25, Chapter 2). This shows that he is reliant on his father to prove him right and to stay with him; he does not want to be away from him or his friends, does not know how to cope with being alone. Afterward, when the boat is crashed and he is blind, his main supporter, Timothy, gets a case of Malaria, and he has to take care of him. This is where he develops his first exhibit of independence. The author wrote, “I poured some water from the keg and gave it to him… I listened to his heavy breathing and then ripped a piece f cloth from what was left of my shirt, dampened it with water, and placed it on his forehead. ‘ (Page 89, Chapter 112).

This shows that, after being trained and shown kindness by Timothy, he learned to not only take care of himself, but others. Though he is not entirely there, he is learning not be like like his vulnerable, conditional self that was known at the beginning of the book. After all, at the somewhat conclusion of the book, after Timothy’s death during a hurricane, he learns to live completely on his own, with the help of Timothy’s spears and Stew Cat.

There, the character trait is entirely developed and is clearly shown. Specifically, ‘But something told me I must stay busy and not think about myself.. Without Timothy’s eyes, I was finding everything had to be very precise. ‘ (Page 116-117, Chapter 16). Though he develops this character trait later on, he develops it through something he has never dealt with-it is a struggle for Phillip, just as surviving on the island was, realizing that he has to depend on himself and not others.

This puts everything entirely full circle- at the beginning he shows none of independence- quite the exact opposite, but through dealing with the cay and Timothy’s death, he has become independent. Additionally, Phillip also forms determination after failing to be salvaged from the island. On the opening, when Timothy and Phillip are just now on the island and assigning things to do, Timothy wants him to braid mats; Phillip, after failing once, gives up and screams at Timothy. Specifically, ‘I tried again, but it didn’t work. I stood up, threw the palm fibers at him, and screamed, “You ugly black man!

I won’t do it! You’re stupid, you can’t even spell. ” (Page 71, Chapter 10). This sudden tantrum presents something that was now entirely seen-Phillip doesn’t know how to handle failure- he gives up at the slightest defeat, and shows it quite rambunctiously. Later in the book, he shows that he is willing to learn from his mistakes and try again- after trying to climb the palm, Phillip gets scared and almost gets off the tree, but, to Timothy’s surprise, he climbs back up to the top, and get two coconuts- without the knife. To illustrate, ‘I went up ten feet and froze.

I could not move up or down.. “Phill-eep, ’tis no shame to ease yourself back downg to d’san’. “…. I couldn’t have been more than a few feet off the ground when I took a deep breath and said to myself, if you fall, you’ll fall in the sand. Then I started climbing again… We drank every drop of coconut milk, and feasted on the fresh meat. ‘ (Pages 98-99, Chapter 13). Phillip not accepting failure for the first time in the book is very important- this means that he is learning to deal with not winning the first time and trying again, showing real perseverance.

Where he shows it lastly and most importantly is after Timothy’s death and failing to get a plan to notice him because the smoke is white-though he wants to give up, he thinks about things on the island he can use- later, he uses the sea grape, and succeeds- an American plane sees the smoke and rescues him. In other words, ‘I put my head down on my arms and sobbed. There seemed to be no hope of leaving the cay, yet I knew I could not always live this way…. perhaps they didn’t see the smoke.. There was no way to tell… but… l began to think of all the things on the island… ‘ (Page 127, Chapter 18).

He shows his trait of determination where it matters most- and it pays off- he has learned from his mistakes and will be a better person because of it. Finally, the last character trait Phillip develops is satisfaction after witnessing the rescue of himself as evidence when he says he will go back one day. To begin, earlier in the book, he is unbalanced and overly-dramatic when beginning to go on the island. He can’t let Timothy leave him alone, he sees the bad in the situation. This is evident by the author stating “During the first few days on the island, the times I spent alone were terrible.

It was, of course, not being able to see that made it so terrifying. ” (Pages 65-66, Chapter 8). This brings it more forward that he cannot handle his blindness or the circumstance he is in. Phillip, or course, does not see ant content or happiness in this island. Though, he develops this trait more whenever he and Timothy start being less like strangers and more like friends, learning to find happiness where he can and look at the bright side. In other words, “Suddenly, I wished my mother and father could see us on the little island… I remember smiling in the darkness, He felt neither black nor white. (Page 75-76, Chapter 8). He is acquiring, slowly, to not take what you have for granted- take your chances, and enjoy life, even in the worst circumstances.

Lastly, when he shows the trait in its most dominant form, whenever he is at last rescued, regained his sight, and with his parents, he is calm with his personal psyche, not angry, sad, or vengeful- he wants to go back there one day, to the place that made him a better person. To demonstrate “Since then, I’ve spent many hours looking at the charts of the Caribbean.. Someday, I’ll charter a schooner out to Panama.. (Pages 131-132, Chapter 19). This last piece of evidence is why he has become satisfied, mature, and an opportunist- he can look back at this event happily, because it made him a better person. Throughout the entire book, it is shown more and more, until the end, where it is obvious the cay has changed him for the better. In conclusion, because the main character, Phillip, faces conflicts such as Timothy’s death, the hurricane, surviving on the cay, blindness, and being rescued, he becomes a more independent, determined, and satisfied person.

The author has taken an experience that no one would even hope to be in- but has shown that if put in that situation, that person will become a much better person, Phillip is a completely dynamic character, he changes from being dependent, defeatist, and unsatisfied to the character traits listed above because he was out in this situation- as well as having Timothy with him. Because of all of these facts, he has become a better person and a more interesting character.

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