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Analysis of Main Characters ‘The Dark Knight’ through the Psychodynamic Theory

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The film ‘The Dark Knight’ is a well-known movie and has earned 8 Academy Award nominations, and has also won 2 Academy Awards. This amount of appreciation is no surprise considering the effort that was put into the movie and the movies significant meaningful story. The film shows many different perspectives from the same story, from a representation of the society to the paths each character takes to achieve the same goal known as satisfaction. Set within a year after the events of ‘Batman Begins’ (2005). Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon, and new DA Harvey Dent have been clearing the Gotham City of criminals and finally, Gotham city has piece. The piece and the calm are soon changed to anarchy and violence when a new mastermind criminal who calls himself the Joker steps into the Gotham City. The Joker’s violence heavily affects the main characters, changing Harvey Dent from a hero to a villain and as Batman presides to stop the Joker, he slowly moves toward crossing the line between heroism and vigilantism. The movie leads the audience into noticing the three different personalities from the three main characters. The director of the film Christopher Nolan manifests the differences in the behavior and personalities found in the three main characters but also showing their connection. By applying the psychodynamic theory to Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ it is clear to the audience that the three main characters Batman, Harvey Dent and the Joker embody the three systems Freud proposed comprised the human mind. Harvey Dent is the superego, Batman is the ego and the Joker is the id. After watching the film, it becomes clear how these three characters act and behave based on their superego, ego or id.

In this film, it is clear that Harvey Dent personifies the superego. Harvey Dent is a virtuous district attorney who works within the law from a moral high ground to fight crime in Gotham his rosy outlook contrasts with Batman’s drab cynicism and his hopefulness only supports his position as the white knight of Gotham City. He acts as the righteous law-abiding citizen that functions as the arm of noble peace and justice in the system. Harvey’s principles come from cultural and societal standards for good behavior and his actions reflect a respect for authority in this case it is respect for the authority of the law. “I don’t leave anything up to chance, I make my own luck” – Harvey Dent. Harvey Dent is referring to his double-headed coin when saying this line. Before making decision Harvey Dent always flips his double-headed coin and calls head for the morally right decision. Meaning that he is always choosing the morally right decision no matter what. This matters because it shows that Harvey Dent values his morals and ethics more than anything, it shows that Harvey Dent does not consider the immoral choice an option. According to the Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “The superego is the ethical component of the personality and provides the moral standards by which the ego operates”. This relates to Harvey Dent by showing how much the superego relies on the moral and ethical standards much like Harvey Dent. The superego can be represented as the law. As they are the ones setting rules and standards for what’s right and what’s wrong.

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Batman the morally gray and anti-hero of the movie personifies the ego. his character is the result of a wicked world forming the hard exterior of a man who’s not afraid to operate outside of a pure righteous morality to achieve a practical goal of saving the city. Batman sacrifices his reputation by taking the blame of the murders Harvey Dent committed after being corrupted by the Joker, he sacrifices his love Rachel Dawes to save Harvey Dent whom can save the city, he was willing to reveal his identity to save the city. His sacrifices are synonymous with the reality principle associated with Freud’s ego. the reality principle states that the ego operates according to a delay in gratification to achieve real-world objectives. The film itself tells the story of Batman’s sacrifice. “Perhaps both Bruce and Mr. Dent believe that Batman stands for something more important than the whims of a terrorist, Miss Dawes, even if everyone hates him for it. That’s the sacrifice he’s making. He’s not being a hero. He’s being something more” – Alfred. During this line Alfred also known as Batman’s butler is explaining to Rachel Dawes, how Batman is willingness to sacrifice his reputation in order to achieve his goal. The balance between these two extremes superego and id is found in batman in the form of ego. In order to achieve his goals, he will sacrifice what’s his. His goals are good and his sacrifice does not harm others. According to Cherry, “The reality principle forces us to consider the risks, requirements, and possible outcomes as we make decisions by temporarily halting the discharge of the id’s energy until a suitable time and place”. And this is a perfect representation of Batman he does consider risks or immoral choices in order to achieve his needs but he ensures that his goals, decisions, and risks does not harm others. Batman or the ego represents the public as most consider risks but also consider the harm that might follow.

The Joker embodies the id. The Joker, on the other hand, is the chaotic hurricane who seeks to undermine all authority and promote anarchy by killing and terrorizing the populace. His motives are nothing less than malevolent and he will do anything to anyone to achieve his ends. In fact, his motivations can even change in an instant setting him down completely different pathways because he sees one as being more fun than another. “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical like money they can’t be both bullied reasoned or negotiated with some men just want to watch the world burn these” – Alfred. The Joker operates according to the pleasure principle. “The pleasure principle is the driving force of the id that seeks immediate gratification of all needs, wants and urges” (Cherry, ‘How Freud’s Pleasure Principle Works’). The Joker’s insanity dominates his persona and his ceaselessly aggressive and merciless actions make him a chaotic tyrant vying for control or more accurately destruction of the moral code of Gotham City. The plot of ‘The Dark Knight’ centers around the fight for the soul of Gotham City a fight for the morality of its citizens whether they would return to their crime-ridden past or move beyond it and beyond fear of Gotham’s villains Harvey Dent and Batman worked together and are successful in cleaning up the streets of Gotham for a while before the Joker is hired by the mob to remedy the situation despite the Joker success and killing off many of Gotham’s prominent citizens his motivations soon become clear he’s only working for himself and his own ends he only wants to see chaos and proof that Gotham is just as twisted as he. He is eventually thwarted by Batman but not before corrupting Harvey Dent by killing his fiancee. The id represents capitalist companies in the society. They do not care what paths may be taken as long as the goal is achieved.

By the end of the film, Harvey Dent represented as superego gets corrupted and dies this shows lust for goodness is not necessarily good and can lead to madness. “As you know, madness is like gravity…all it takes is a little push” – the Joker. The Joker represented as the id is caught by Batman and arrested showing that lust for evil eventually leads to failure. Batman, on the other hand, is the only character standing by the end of the film showing that the ego, also known as the balance of the two extremes, is the only one surviving.

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Analysis of Main Characters ‘The Dark Knight’ through the Psychodynamic Theory. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Analysis of Main Characters ‘The Dark Knight’ through the Psychodynamic Theory.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
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