The Swiss Family Robinson

by Johann David Wyss, Johann Rudolf Wyss

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Chapter 34 Summary

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There are two seasons of planting. The first is ending, and harvesting is upon the family. The crops have done so well that collecting the grains and starches is overwhelming. To ease their burden, the father tells his family they will harvest their crops the Italian rather than Swiss way.

The boys and their father reap the grains without completely cutting down the stalks. Elizabeth finds this wasteful and begs them to cut the entire length of the stalks, normally used for animal fodder. The father insists this applies too much pressure on the boys' backs; they would spend the day bent over. If they stand upright, grab the stalks, and cut off the heads of the grain, they can harvest more without wearing out. Later they can take their animals to the fields and let them eat the remaining stalks. In this way, the fields will be cleared for a new planting and the boys can dig up the potatoes that need harvesting.

The father also creates a faster way of skinning animals. He arranges a large syringe confiscated from the shipwreck together with some tubes and valves. He tops this with a perforated stopper, to which he connects a powerful air pump. His sons look on curiously at this new contraption and courteously question their father's sanity. They cannot, however, hide their laughter when they think their father will attempt to blow the skins off.

The father, unimpressed with his sons' doubts and ridicule, ties a kangaroo they shot to a high limb on a tree. He cuts a small incision in the skin, inserts the syringe, and forces air between the skin and body. In time and with great effort, the hide distends, causing the  animal to grow in size. The father continues to blow air until the skin is almost completely separated from the carcass. With a few careful cuts, the skin falls away in less than half the time it would have normally taken.

The father takes this opportunity to explain the physiology of the body. He explains that the skin of an animal is attached to its body by delicate fibers. Between these fibers and the skin are thousands of pockets of air enclosed in bladders. Blowing up the bladders causes the skin to have nothing to hold onto and thus it falls away. The boys, witnessing their father's spectacular accomplishment, stop laughing.

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Chapter 33 Summary


Chapter 35 Summary