David Swan by Nathaniel Hawthorne: An Analysis of Binary Opposites

David Swan tells the story of a young man who travels to Boston and who, while waiting for the coach, falls asleep. During his sleep, three major events occur that may have changed his life now.

First of all, a young couple passes by and sees him. The lady wants to take with them and give him fortune, but the gentleman doubts because they do not know him. So they decide to leave him alone and asleep. It turns out that the couple is rich and can offer him a little fortune, but he misses it because he is asleep.

After the couple, a blonde girl comes to meet him and marvels at his youthful beauty. It also happens that the father of the girl is looking for a young man like David. If only David could introduce himself to the girl, he could have been the clerk of his father, another fortune he lacks.

After the girl leaves, a group of bandits approaches him and threatens to kill him if he wakes up while they take some of his belongings. The men manage to take David's business and fortunately David does not wake up, so he does not end up in the story.

As the men leave, a bus passes and David wakes up. He entered the car with all his hopes for Boston, never knowing everything that goes on during his sleep.


Binary opposites or opposing forces of nature can be seen in this story and they help in the development of the sense of history. These are some of the following:

Good bad. We can see it in the vicissitudes that occurred while David was asleep. Two of the three vicissitudes were good, fortune and love and the other is death, obviously the bad one. This implies that good and bad chances are also forgotten and / or taken for granted as we move through life.

Ignorance – Consciousness. David did not know everything that had happened to him when he was asleep and had no idea even after he woke up. All who passed by him knew that he was asleep and that he felt nothing, nor would remember anything after he woke up. These binary opposites tell us that all the chances that come to us are aware of us, but that we are not aware of them. These chances only wait for our answer if we take them, reject them or ignore them, let alone that we do not notice them.

Chance – Choice. David chose to rest and then fell asleep, missing so many chances in his life that could have determined his end result. Life is both a question of choice and luck. All these chances that come to us are the product of our choices. We make a choice, then, as for dominoes, a series of chances appears to us.

These are just some of the binary opposites that are still true in our lives. They always play a major role, whether we are asleep or awake.