The historical context of The Cay can present difficulties for young readers. It may be helpful to begin the reading unit with background on the geography and history of the novel. Curaçao is an island located off the coast of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean Sea, not far from Aruba. In the 1940s, Curaçao was a territory of the Netherlands, known for its oil refineries. When World War II began in 1939, the oil produced on Curaçao became essential to Allied operations. The U.S. and Britain, in particular, relied on these refineries. To weaken their Allied enemies, therefore, Germany began to target the refineries, torpedoing oil tankers and even attacking the refineries themselves. Curaçao itself was attacked in February of 1942. Although Phillip Enright’s story is fictional, his predicament is based on real historical events.
Learn more about WWII on Curaçao and its neighboring islands.
Check out other lesson plans on history and literature during World War II and Holocaust