What is the main theme in The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss and Johann Rudolf Wyss?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The central theme in the young reader's novel The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss and Johann Rudolf Wyss, is family. Though the Robinson family becomes stranded on an uninhabited tropical island, the members never question their ability to survive together as a family. In addition, the more tribulations they weather and learn from, the closer they grow together as a family.

The closeness of the family is in part due to the father, who is a very strong leader. We see his leadership skills in the very beginning of the first chapter when, in the midst of a tempest at sea, he encourages his wife and children to be brave. His wife and four young sons had been crying in terror, but when he reminds them that the Lord can save them if it is in his will and that if they die, they will at least die together, his wife is able to lift her head in bravery, and their sons follow suit.

The father further shows his leadership skills when he figures out, due to the inspiration of his second-youngest son Jack, how to rig a raft out of wine barrels. Using their raft, they make it from the wrecked ship to the island, carrying as many supplies and materials as they can. The father and the eldest son Fritz use the same barrel raft later in Chapter 5 to transport livestock, more building materials, and weaponry from the ship. Father even thinks of the ingenious idea of erecting a makeshift flagpole upon which he hoisted "a strip of sailcloth" to use as a flag as a means for his family to signal to him and Fritz if the rest of the family members were in any danger while father and Fritz were away on the ship. As father explains, "This flag was to remain hoisted so long as all was well on shore, but should our return be desired, three shots were to be fired and the flag lowered."

Due to the father's strong leadership skills, the family cooperates a great deal as they work through their problems. Every problem they overcome, they do so working together, including finding a safe and winter-proof place to live and finding enough to eat. Also, though mistakes are made, no one grows angry and no one blames one another.

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