What can be another ending for Johann David Wyss's The Swiss Family Robinson?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An assignment such as this—write an alternative ending to Johann David Wyss's classic novel The Swiss Family Robinson—requires some measure of creativity on the part of the student. Wyss's story of a family stranded on an island following a shipwreck and of their success in transforming what could have been a disastrous situation into a positive experience allows for any number of potential endings. As readers of The Swiss Family Robinson know, the clan declines an opportunity to depart when rescue is at hand, with the notable exception of the now-grown son Fritz, who chooses to return to Europe to marry Emily. The family has found the island a welcome environment, abundant in sources of food and shelter. Additionally, new arrivals choose to make their island their home, all in the hopes that the island will become a new colony, which they joyfully name "New Switzerland":

"‘Hurrah for New Switzerland!’

‘New Switzerland for ever!’ shouted the whole company enthusiastically, as they raised their glasses, and made them touch with a musical ring, which so expressively denotes a joyful unanimity of sentiment."

The islanders deeply-felt beliefs in the presence of a divine being is an important element of Wyss's novel, and the author concludes his tale with the suggestion that the island's status has been transformed from uninhabited to rightfully-owned possession of the British Crown, which functions with the imprimatur of God. Reinforcing this sentiment, the story's narrator, the family patriarch, concludes that the long chain of events beginning with their shipwreck and ending with the designation of a new colony is wholly the work of God:

"‘Every circumstance has been wonderfully ordered and linked together by Divine Providence, and if England gains a prosperous and happy colony, it will prove a fitting clasp to this fortunate chain of events. Three cheers for New Switzerland.’"

And, the reader, then, is treated to the happiest of endings. When contemplating an alternative outcome, one could logically consider a less fortuitous resolution, perhaps including civil strife among the island's population grounded in fundamental disagreements regarding the colony's governance. After all, judicial and law enforcement systems are established precisely because of the propensity of people to allow disagreements to grow into violent confrontations, and for deviant behavior among the population to be contained. Consequently, a possible considerably less positive ending of Wyss's story could involve the disintegration of the cordial environment into something less harmonious.

Another possible ending could involve the island becoming the target of rival colonial powers, each seeking to add it to their already expansive empire. On a less geopolitical front, the family at the center of the story, the Robinsons, could be struck with the inevitable fatal illnesses that cause them to question their religious beliefs or, conversely, to hold even tighter to those beliefs. Contemplating a different ending need only reflect the student's awareness of the myriad problems that befall all communities. In any event, these are all rather negative scenarios. The positiveness reflected in the novel as written, though, allows for an ending with a little less self-righteousness and piety.

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The Swiss Family Robinson

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