Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Ship. Unnamed vessel on which the Robinsons are traveling when the novel opens. Readers are told little about the ship, except that it is a sizable sailing vessel with a substantial and varied cargo; its name and intended destination are carefully unmentioned. Its main function, while it remains stuck on a rock close to the shore of the island on which the Robinsons are marooned, is to provide the castaways with a rich source of useful materials, including food, tools, gunpowder, livestock, and a small boat.

Refuge Bay

Refuge Bay. Shore on which the family lands. The exact location of this bay is unspecified. It initially appears to be in a subtropical zone off the coast of either Central or South America because its native floras include coconut palms, potatoes, and sugarcane, while its faunas include penguins, agoutis, and margay cats—all species native to that part of the world. However, as the story continues, the varieties of flora and fauna on the island become improbably elaborate and extraordinarily extensive, eventually even including numerous creatures native to Africa, such as ostriches, hyenas, and a hippopotamus.

The Robinsons’ decision to name their landfall Refuge Bay sets a pattern echoed in other place-names chosen by the castaway family. For example, the promontory on which they search unsuccessfully for the crew of their ship becomes the Cape of Disappointed Hope (a clear takeoff on Southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope), and the hill on which they make their survey they call the Observatory. Other names are improvised according to circumstance, with a careful simplicity that represents the determined utilitarianism of their approach to life. Thus, the place where they spend their first night becomes Tentbourne, the wetland inland of it Flamingo Swamp, and the stream where they glimpse the eponymous animal, Jackal Brook.


Falconeyrie. Family’s principal dwelling, so called because it is constructed around the base and within the branches of a huge tree. Hastily contrived at first, this home-away-from-home and its surrounding estates are steadily improved, despite the occasional intervention of destructive storms.

Kingdom of Truth

Kingdom of Truth. Allegory constructed by the narrator on the family’s first Sunday ashore...

(The entire section is 975 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The story begins on the seventh day that the Robinsons spend confined to a wrecked ship. The father gathers together his wife and four young...

(The entire section is 279 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Swiss Family Robinson belongs to a class of stories that became popular throughout Europe after the publication of Robinson...

(The entire section is 361 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In no way do ten years of isolation destroy the social fabric of the Robinson family. The children and adults are essentially happy; there is...

(The entire section is 192 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Consider the many different kinds of animals and plants found on the island. Do you think that such a place might actually exist, or is it...

(The entire section is 166 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Read Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and compare it with The Swiss Family Robinson.

2. Write a short report about...

(The entire section is 195 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

There are several film versions of The Swiss Family Robinson. A Walt Disney color version, made in 1960, directed by Ken Annakin, and...

(The entire section is 75 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Allen, Francis H. "News for Bibliophiles," in Nation 95 (September 5, 1912): 210-211. Allen chronicles the early history of The...

(The entire section is 163 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bashore, J. Robert. “Daniel Defoe.” In Writers for Children: Critical Studies of Major Authors Since the Seventeenth Century, edited by Jane Bingham. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1987. A comparison of The Swiss Family Robinson to Robinson Crusoe (1719), examining the enduring appeal of each to a young readership.

Fisher, Margery. Who’s Who in Children’s Books. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975. In a short entry, Fisher argues that rather than being simply a series of loosely connected episodes, the novel is a depiction of a natural and accustomed piety within a family context.

Glaenzer, Richard Butler. “The Swiss Family Robinson.” Bookman 34 (1911): 139-142. Focusing on the causes for the enduring appeal of this story, Glaenzer argues that the Wysses made the novel enjoyable despite a serious purpose: to instruct his children. He did this through emphasizing a good-natured rivalry among four young boys, thus dealing with the serious business of life in an engaging way.

Loxley, Diana. Problematic Shores: The Literature of Islands. London: Macmillan, 1992. A study of the nineteenth century successors to Defoe, looking at the connections between children’s books and imperialism, as well as the depiction of childhood innocence by means of empty islands.