The Swiss Family Robinson

by Johann David Wyss, Johann Rudolf Wyss

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What were the Robinson family's most important lessons in "The Swiss Family Robinson"?

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The Swiss Family Robinson was written in 1812 and is about a family of six (two parents and four boys) who survive a shipwreck. The morning after the storm, the family members spy a tropical island and decide to try to make their way there; they eventually make it to the island, along with their dogs, some livestock, tools and food. The most pressing need the family has is that of their long-term survival. The father in particular knows that they may be on the island for a while, so rationing of provisions is vital. The family members also learn a great deal about the flora and fauna of the island, and how to respect and interact with the natural world. They are already church-goers, but this ordeal brings them closer together and enforces their Christian faith; they are compelled to practice patience and kindness toward each other, especially since they do not know how long they will be stranded on the island. In fact, the family ends up staying for over ten years.

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The primary lessons learned by this family after ten years on the island involve God, nature, persistence, and the value of working together.  Within a few hours of arrival at the island, the shipwrecked family is making themselves a nice supper that foreshadows the next decade of comforts attained by working with, and sometimes against nature to create a roof over their heads, feed and medicate themselves, and digest the frequent moralistic advice and sermons dispensed by the all-knowing and apparently perfect father of the group.  Some critics have argued that the book is extremely sexist, depicting as it does the omnipresent father juxtaposed against the mother who might as well not exist, she is given so little to do in the story.  Other critics have ridiculed the ease with which the family overcomes life threatening situations, such as encounters with predatory animals.  In any case, the novel has retained, if not popularity, at least a lasting place in the literary canon, alongside such epics as Robinson Crusoe.

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