The Swiss Family Robinson

by Johann David Wyss, Johann Rudolf Wyss

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated December 16, 2022.

Take courage, my boys! We are all above water yet. There is the land not far off, let us do our best to reach it. You know God helps those that help themselves! (Chapter 1)

This quote represents the symbiotic relationship between faith and self-reliance within the novel. The Swiss family are devout Christians, and the father frequently refers to providence, the idea that God provides all that people need to survive. However, people must still work hard in order to put God’s gifts to proper use. Essentially, the father feels that God protected the ship from being completely wrecked and has positioned the family near land; now, they must apply their own effort and ingenuity in order to make the bountiful island habitable.

Fritz was so provoked by their impertinent gestures that he raised his gun, and would have shot one of the poor beasts.

“Stay,” cried I, “never take the life of any animal needlessly. A live monkey up in that tree is of more use to us than a dozen dead ones at our feet, as I will show you.” (Chapter 2)

The novel is full of didactic lessons imparted by the father to his sons, and this is one major example. Fritz’s first instinct upon being mocked by the monkeys is to shoot at them, demonstrating his youth, inexperience, and impulsiveness. However, his father advises him to exercise compassion and think more rationally, showing him how the monkeys can be used to more efficiently gather coconuts.

“No! But then we can’t go to church here, and there is nothing else to do.”

“We can worship here as well as at home,” I said.

“But there is no church, no clergyman and no organ,” said Franz.

“The leafy shade of this great tree is far more beautiful than any church,” I said, “there will we worship our Creator.” (Chapter 4)

Although they are far from civilization, the Swiss family still maintains certain structures within their life, with religion playing a prominent role. Although the sons may no longer have access to a church or congregation, their father is still determined that they will receive a religious education. By encouraging his sons to worship in nature, he is also reinforcing the concept that God has provided the island for the family.

It was my wish that our sons should cultivate a habit of bold independence, for I well knew that it might easily be the will of God to deprive them of their parents; when, without an enterprising spirit of self reliance, their position would be truly miserable. (Chapter 12)

While the father generally serves as the firm head of the family, he does also encourage his sons to think and explore for themselves. He imparts valuable survival skills upon them, such as shooting, riding, farming, and engineering. This quote reflects his practical mindset as well as his parenting philosophy, as he strives to ensure his sons will be able to care for themselves if anything were to happen to him. Ultimately, he does not want his children to be blindly obedient to his will. Instead, he wants them to have the knowledge, creativity, and skills needed to survive and thrive on their own.

Children are, on the whole, very much alike everywhere, and you four lads fairly represent multitudes, who are growing up in all directions. It will make me happy to think that my simple narrative may lead some of these to observe how blessed are the results of patient continuance in well-doing, what benefits arise from the thoughtful application of knowledge and science, and how...

(This entire section contains 747 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

good and pleasant a thing it is when brethren dwell together in unity, under the eyes of parental love. (Chapter 18)

As he prepares to part from his eldest and youngest sons, the father presents them with the journals he has kept for the past ten years, hoping they might bring them back to Europe and recruit more colonists for New Switzerland. This quote is something of a thesis statement for The Swiss Family Robinson as a whole, which is generally regarded as didactic in nature; just as the father in the novel imparts knowledge to his sons, so too does Wyss endeavor to impart knowledge to the reader, having originally written the novel for his own sons. As a clergyman, Wyss held deep religious convictions, and the novel reflects his belief in the virtues of a simple, peaceful, and godly life within a loving and cohesive family unit.




Teaching Guide