What is the setting of "The Swiss family Robinson"? I mean where and when the story happened.

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary and most important setting in The Swiss Family Robinson is a tropical island on which the family is marooned. The date the story takes place isn't mentioned in the book. However, the family wrecked on the island on the 31st of January, and Johann David Wyss first published the novel in 1812.

The novel opens in the hold of a ship where the Robinson family is huddled during a large storm that eventually wrecks the vessel. The Robinsons survive by using tubs filled with supplies as makeshift boats. From these, they construct their life on the island.

William, the father of the family, describes the island, saying: 

By-and-by we began to perceive that, between and beyond the cliffs, green grass and trees were discernible. Fritz could distinguish many tall palms, and Ernest hoped they would prove to be coconut trees, and enjoyed the thoughts of drinking the refreshing milk.

And later:

Fritz and I pursued our way up the stream until we reached a point where the waters fell from a considerable height in a cascade, and where several large rocks lay half covered by the water; by means of these we succeeded in crossing the stream in safety. We thus had the sea on our left, and a long line of rocky heights, here and there adorned with clumps of trees, stretching away inland to the right. We had forced our way scarcely fifty yards through the long rank grass, which was here partly withered by the sun and much tangled, when we heard behind us a rustling, and on looking round saw the grass waving to and fro, as if some animal were passing through it. Fritz instantly turned and brought his gun to his shoulder, ready to fire the moment the beast should appear. I was much pleased with my son’s coolness and presence of mind, for it showed me that I might thoroughly rely upon him on any future occasion when real danger might occur; this time, however, no savage beast rushed out, but our trusty dog Turk, whom, in our anxiety at parting, we had forgotten, and who had been sent after us doubtless by my thoughtful wife.

From this little incident, however, we saw how dangerous was our position, and how difficult escape would be should any fierce beast steal upon us unawares: we therefore hastened to make our way to the open seashore. Here the scene which presented itself was indeed delightful. A background of hills, the green waving grass, the pleasant groups of trees stretching here and there to the very water’s edge, formed a lovely prospect. 

The island is lovely and able to sustain life. At the end of the novel, the Robinson parents choose to remain on the island and form a little community made up of other travelers, while the sons and their pseudo-adopted daughter, Emily, choose to return to England on a ship sent to retrieve Emily.

Though the time of the shipwreck isn't mentioned, the passage of time is mentioned in the story. At one point, William says:

Everyone was surprised to hear that we had already been twelve months in the country—indeed, my wife believed I might be mistaken, until I showed her how I had calculated regularly ever since the 31st of January, on which day we were wrecked, by marking off in my almanac the Sundays as they arrived for the remaining eleven months of that year.

By the end of the novel, the Robinson family has spent a decade on the island.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story begins with the family who has survived a terrible storm, and being hunted by pirates, to discover that their ship is destroyed, unable to sail any further. 

 Therefore, they must make a new life on the island that lies in the distance.  They have with them all that they need for a new life since they were on their way to New Guinea.

The island that they land on is described as lush and tropical.

sammi3bby | Student

The island and the ship wreck are the places, but I'm trying to find the year or whatever and can't seem to find it anywhere!

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The Swiss Family Robinson

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