Nathaniel Hawthorne’s David Swan: An Analysis of Binary Opposites

David Swan is the story of a young man who goes to Boston and, while waiting for the coach, falls asleep. While you sleep, three important things happen that could have changed your life from then on.

First, a young couple walks past him and sees him. The lady wants to take him with them and give him a fortune but the man doubts because they don’t know him. So they just decide to leave him there alone and asleep. The couple happens to be wealthy and can offer him some fortune, but he misses her because he is asleep.

After the couple, a beautiful maiden stands in their way and marvels at their young beauty. It also happens that the maiden’s father looks for a young man like David, if only David manages to introduce himself to the maiden, he could have been his father’s secretary, another fortune that he misses.

After the girl leaves, a group of bandits approach her and threaten to kill her if she wakes up, as they are taking some of her possessions. The men manage to take David’s things and luckily David doesn’t wake up lest he end up dead in the story.

When the men leave, a carriage passes and David awakens. He walked into the coach with all his Boston hopes on him, never knowing everything that happens in his sleep.


Binary opposites or opposing forces of nature can be seen in this story and help in developing the meaning of the story. Here are some of the following:

Good bad. We can see this in the vicissitudes that happened while David slept. Two of the three vicissitudes were good, fortune and love and the other is death, obviously the bad one. This implies that both good and bad opportunities are equally forgotten and / or taken for granted that we travel through life.

Ignorance – Consciousness. David was ignorant of all the things that happened to him while he slept and had no idea even after he woke up. All the people who passed him realized that he is asleep and does not feel anything or remember anything after he wakes up. These binary opposites tell us that all opportunities that come our way are aware of us, but we are not aware of them. These opportunities only await our response, if we accept, reject or ignore them, much less do not notice them.

Opportunity – Choice. David chose to rest and then fell asleep, thus missing several opportunities in his life that could have determined his end result. Life is as much a matter of choice as it is of chance. All these opportunities that come to us are the product of our choices. We make a choice, then, like dominoes, a chain of opportunities appears.

These are just a few of the binary opposites that are always true in our life. They always play an important role, whether we are asleep or awake.