A Theme Of Racism In The Cay By Theodore Taylor

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Our society today is like a box of crayons. This box contains a vast array of crayons of varied colour, shape, size and sharpness. However, these crayons have learnt to live together in unity as one box. In ‘The Cay’, the author Theodore Taylor explains how humans, (with far more intellect than crayons), can live in harmony in their box, in their own world. In the world we live in today, classifications of people according to their colour, ethnicity (eth – ni – suh – tee), and religion exist. In this essay I will aim to convince you that “the colour of your heart is more important than the colour of your skin” and that “I have a dream”, just like the American civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream too way back in 1963. In ‘The Cay’, Taylor teaches us about equalising the far-reaching effects of racism that is felt by black Americans and Negros daily, including coloured protagonist Timothy. Humans have become ignorant to the fact that the people around them share numerous similarities. Our eyes only open far enough to point out the differences in one another, in just the same way the white protagonist Phillip from the novel has treated coloured Protagonist Timothy, resulting in the main themes of racism, prejudice and stereotypes. According to the Oxford Dictionary, “racism is discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”.

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Racism plays a major role in the novella ‘The Cay’ written by Theodore Taylor as he explores a similar dream to King. Taylor establishes the novel with a white boy Phillip with parental inflicted, prejudiced views on race. After being torpedoed, surrounded by German Submarines and stranded at sea with an old black man, Phillip’s worldview changes dramatically and Taylor’s novel begins to explore different race relationships by investigating an unlikely friendship that rises above racial limitations. The author did not only write an award-winning, globally valued novel receiving sales of around 4 million but ‘The Cay’ has also successfully conveyed a strong theme of overcoming racism throughout. Taylor exaggerates an extremely unlikely friendship by beginning the novel with a racist young boy, but as the novel continues and Phillip matures we watch his prejudice views fade away as he develops more respect and is able to see through the colour of skin and into the colour of Timothy’s heart. Towards the beginning of the novel, Phillip lashes out; “You ugly black man! I won’t do it! You’re stupid, you can’t even spell”. But as the segregation breaks between them, in chapter 10 Phillip says to himself. “I moved close to Timothy’s big body before I went to sleep. I remember smiling in the darkness. He felt neither white nor black”. Just like Phillip’s relationship with Timothy, we can unite our society and create a beautiful rainbow of crayons with all races. I have a dream that one day we will all choose anti-racism, and look beyond the skin.

01 February 2021

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