Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1295
Of all the passengers and crew on board the ship, only the Robinson family is saved when the vessel breaks apart on a reef and the crew and other passengers jump into lifeboats without waiting for the little family to join them. As the ship tosses about, the father prays...
(The entire section contains 1295 words.)
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Of all the passengers and crew on board the ship, only the Robinson family is saved when the vessel breaks apart on a reef and the crew and other passengers jump into lifeboats without waiting for the little family to join them. As the ship tosses about, the father prays that God will spare them. There is plenty of food on board, and after they eat, the boys go to sleep, leaving the father and the mother to guard them.
In the morning their first concern is to get to the island they can see beyond the reef. With much effort, they construct a vessel out of tubs. After they fill the tubs with food and ammunition and all other articles of value they can safely carry, they row toward the island. Two dogs from the ship swim beside them, and the boys are glad they will have pets when they reach their new home.
Their first task on reaching the island is to erect a tent of sailcloth they brought from the ship. They gather moss and dry it so that they will have some protection from the ground when they sleep. They are able to find a lobster and to shoot some game, thus to add fresh food to their supplies. Since they have no utensils for eating, they use shells for spoons, all dipping out of the iron kettle that they brought from the ship. They released some geese and pigeons while they were still on the ship and brought two hens and two cocks with them. The father knows that they must prepare for a long time on the island, and his thoughts are as much on provisions for the future as for their immediate wants.
The father and Fritz, the oldest son, spend the next day exploring the island. They find gourds from which they can make dishes and spoons, and many edible fruits and roots. Coconuts, growing in abundance, provide a treat for the mother and the younger boys. Fritz captures a small monkey, which he takes back for a pet. The younger boys are enchanted with the mischievous little animal.
The Robinsons spend the next few days securing themselves against hunger and danger from wild animals. The father and Fritz make several trips to the ship in their efforts to bring ashore everything that they can possibly use. The domesticated animals on the ship are towed back to the island. There is also a great store of firearms and ammunition, hammocks for sleeping, carpenter’s tools, lumber, cooking utensils, silverware, and dishes.
While the father and Fritz are salvaging these supplies, the mother and the younger boys are working on the shore, sowing seeds, examining the contents of the kegs that floated to shore, and in every way possible making the tent a more livable home. The mother and boys also explore the island to find a spot for a more permanent home. When the father and Fritz can join them, the whole family helps to construct a tree house that will give them protection from wild animals that they fear might dwell on the island.
Through the following weeks, each day brings a new adventure of some kind. There are encounters with wild birds and terrifying animals. Ernest, the second son, studied nature with great interest before their ill-fated voyage, and he identifies many of the animals and birds. They find some food that they consider luxuries—sugarcane, honey, potatoes, and spices. They fence in a secluded area for their cattle so that they might have a constant supply of milk and fresh meat. Several new dwellings are constructed to provide homes on all sides of the island. The father finds a tree that contains long threads, and after he constructs a loom, the mother is able to weave cloth for new clothing. Jack and Francis, the younger boys, contribute to the welfare of the family by helping their mother to care for the animals and thresh the grain grown from seeds brought from the ship.
Many times the family members find their labor destroyed by uncontrollable forces. Goats eat the bark off young fruit trees they planted; monkeys rob their food stores frequently; and jackals and serpents kill some of their pets. Nevertheless, they are not too discouraged, for they know that they were very fortunate to land on an island that provides food and shelter in such abundance.
About a year later they discover a cave, which becomes a home and a storage place for their supplies. The cave protects them from the rains, and their supplies are safe from intruders. They spend many enjoyable evenings reading books they salvage from the ship. The father and mother find a way to make candles from the sap of a native tree. Altogether, their lives are agreeable and happy, and each morning and evening they thank God for his goodness.
Ten years pass. The boys become young men, and Fritz often sails long distances in the canoe he constructs. One day he captures a wounded albatross and finds attached to it a note, written in English, asking someone to help an English girl who is in a cave near a volcano. The father and Fritz decide that Fritz must try to find her without telling the rest of the family of the note or the proposed search. Fritz, successful in his search, finds a girl, Emily Montrose, who was also shipwrecked as she was sailing from India to her home in England. The members of the Robinson family accept Emily as a daughter and a sister who is able to help the mother in her duties and give the boys much joy with her stories of life in India. Her own mother is dead. Emily lived in India with her father, an army officer, who sailed back to England on a different ship. She knows he is worried about her, but there is no way for her to communicate with him.
One morning, a few months later, the castaways are astonished to hear the sound of three cannon shots. Not knowing whether the sound comes from a friendly ship or from a pirate vessel, they load their small boat with firearms and sail out to investigate. There they find an English ship that was driven off course by a storm. It is impossible for this ship to take Emily back to England, but the captain promises to notify her father and to send a ship back for her. A captain, his wife, and two children, who are on board, are so enchanted with the island that they ask to be allowed to stay. It seems as if a little colony will grow there.
Six months later the ship sent by Emily’s father arrives. Fritz and Francis have a great longing to see their homeland again, and since they are now mature young men, their mother and father allow them to return with Emily. Before he leaves, Fritz tells his father that he loves Emily and intends to ask her father’s permission to propose marriage to her. The Robinsons, who love Emily dearly, give their blessing to their son.
The father prepares a manuscript relating their adventures and gives it to Fritz before the boy sails, in the hope that their story might be of interest to the rest of the world. The father and mother want to spend their remaining days on the island. Now that their island is known, commerce will begin and a colony could grow there. The father prays that the little colony will increase in prosperity and piety and will continue to deserve and receive the blessings of the merciful God who cared for them all so tenderly in the past.