In Johann David Wyss's novel The Swiss Family Robinson, why does the father call the bridge over the river Family Bridge?
In Johann David Wyss’s 1812 novel about a family stranded on an island, The Swiss Family Robinson, the author depicts an exceptionally close-knit group that shares in all manner of decisions. In Chapter Four, Wyss’s narrator, the father of this marooned clan, describes a discussion among the family members regarding names they will collectively agree to apply to various features of the island. When discussing the bay into which they floated following the shipwreck that resulted in their predicament, the boys eagerly suggest names denoting the site’s association with the shellfish that will become a staple of their diet. Their mother, however, suggests, instead, that they agree to call the location Safety Bay, “in token of gratitude for our escape . . .” The boys and other members of the Robinson family agree that Safety Bay will make a good designation. The situation is similar with respect to the bridge the building of which subsumes much of the father’s energy until its completion. As with other monikers bestowed upon the features of the island they now call home, the bridge is, at one point in Chapter Seven, referred to as “Family-bridge.” This designation is consistent with the family’s closeness as a unit, and to the collaborative effort that brought the structure to fruition. Wyss’s narrator describes his children’s elation upon completion of the bridge’s construction:
“Nothing could exceed the excitement of the children. They danced to and fro on the wonderful structure, singing, shouting and cutting the wildest capers. I must confess I heartily sympathized with their triumphant feelings.”
The completion of the bridge is one of the novel’s early defining moments, and the ability of the family members to work together on its construction is an important symbol of their resilience, to their devotion to their task, and to their bond as a unit.