David is the model of male dominance in Surfacing. David initially appears to be an ideal husband, as he jokes and flirts with Anna. However, Atwood twists her portrayal of David by revealing the cruelty that underscores his jokes and the emptiness of his flirtation. Under the guise of joking, David constantly tries to control Anna’s behavior. As the week progresses, he becomes overtly antagonistic toward her, calling her fat and snubbing her ideas, and eventually uses psychological cruelty to dominate her. He also objectifies Anna by referring to her body in front of Joe. The narrator recognizes that David’s flirtation serves as a display. She calls his banter with Anna a “skit,” noticing that both David and Anna drop their flirtation once they lose their audience.

David spews generic anti-American sentiment, calling the Americans pigs and proposing that they be thrown out of Canada. However, these anti-American politics lack substance. The best justification that David can muster for hating Americans is a ridiculous prediction of an American invasion of Canada. David possesses nearly all of the despicable characteristics the narrator comes to associate with Americans. Additionally, his own life seems at odds with his anti-American sentiments. David loves the distinctly American pastime of baseball, and he constantly laughs like the American cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. David’s political standing illustrates that Americans are marked by behaviors and not by nationality.