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

David Swan is the story of a young man who is on his way to Boston and while waiting for the bus, he falls asleep. While he sleeps, three important things happen that could have changed his life from then on.

First, a young couple walks past him and sees him. The lady wants to take him away and give him a fortune, but the gentleman hesitates because they don’t know him. So they just decide to leave him there alone and asleep. It happens that the couple is rich and they can offer him some fortune, but he loses it because he is asleep.

After the pair, a beautiful young woman crosses their path and marvels at their youthful beauty. It also happens that the maiden’s father is looking for a young man like David, if only David manages to introduce himself to the maiden, he could have been his father’s scribe, another fortune that he misses.

After the girl leaves, he is approached by a group of bandits who threaten to kill him if he wakes up, as they are taking some of his possessions. The men manage to take David’s stuff and luckily David doesn’t wake up so he doesn’t end up dead in the story.

As the men leave, a carriage passes and David wakes up. He got on the bus with all his hopes for Boston on him, never knowing everything that happens while he sleeps.

Analysis:

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

Good bad. We can see this in the events 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 in our journey through life.

Ignorance – Awareness. David was ignorant of all the things that happened to him in his sleep and had no idea even after waking up. All those people who passed by him knew that he is asleep and does not feel anything or remember anything after he wakes up. These binary opposites tell us that all the opportunities that come our way are aware of us, but we are not aware of them. These opportunities only await our response, whether we take them, reject them or ignore them, let alone not notice them.

Lucky choice. David chose to rest and then fell asleep, thus losing several opportunities in his life that could have determined his final outcome. Life is as much a matter of choice as it is luck. All these opportunities that are presented to us are the product of our choices. We make a choice, then, like dominoes, a chain of possibilities appears.

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

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