Harvey Dent

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This page analyzes Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight

    In the beginning of the movie, Harvery Dent states "You either die a hero or live I Believe.jpglong enough to see yourself become the villain." This quote is a kind of self-prophecy and is similar to the pygmalion effect. According to Wikipedia, the pygmalion effect "requires a student to internalize the expectations of their superiors" (Wiki). Dent, as a student of the law, seems to almost know what direction he is heading in from the beginning.  He knows that power is corrupting and many people want it.  

     Dent represents a warped version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid-shaped way of determining self based on potential and good actions (Atkinson 524-525).  Dent follows this pyramid perfectly, seemingly making it to the next to the second highest level.  For moments, Dent has nearly achieved all of his goals: cleaning up Gotham and having the promise to marry him from the woman he loves.  With Rachel's death, however, Dent deviates from the positive pyramid.  His moment of self-actualization leads him to discover the inner killer.  He figures out that he can take a life; he's not so different from the very criminals that tortured Gotham, thus he becomes one of them. 

     Dent's many issues stem from the fact that he wants to be the savior of a town that seems nearly unsavable and he loses Rachel, who turns out to be his conscience.  Dent put 547 criminals behind bars at once and is willing to take the heat from journalists, criminals, and working people in order to clean up Gotham.  He, like Batman, has an apparent Christ-complex.  The two characters are very similar except for the fact that Batman has the mental toughness that stems from his tragic past to deal with the issues that arise in The Dark Knight.  Both characters even have the need to control.  Batman's need is more to prevent the kinds of injustices that occurred in his own life from occurring in other's lives.  Dent's need, however, seems to come from a need for recognition.  He seems to strive for the satisfaction of others, not himself; this is why he falls to the Joker in the end.  Once Rachel is gone, his ideas of true justice are shattered and he becomes lost, forcing him to control others through fear, not justice. Rachel and Dent.jpg 

    (It is also notable that Dent not only has a Christ-complex, but also that he is a Christ-figure.  Dent nearly gives his life (by almost being blown-up) in order to bring justice to Gotham.  He knows he is in danger, but he takes it to save the city.  After his sacrifice, like Jesus from the cross, he is given a new life and sports the wounds to prove his sacrifice (the holes in Jesus' hands and feet compared to Dent's burned face).  The comparison, however, goes no further for at the moment of the ultimate test, Dent fails.  Once he learned of Rachel's death, the real sacrifice, he becomes a monster instead of a hero.) 

      It is apparent early on that Dent had some issues trusting people.  When Gordon came to him asking him to sign a warrant, Dent questions Gordon, his men, and Batman's intensions and ability to effectively fight crime.  He knows that in Gotham, good people seem hard to come by, yet he does end up signing the warrant.  The death of his beloved leaves Dent without a friend in the world, nobody to trust.  As far as he was concerned, Batman and Gordon should have saved Rachel, so he harbors anger towards both of them.  As for the rest of society, he sees them as scum and accessories to the crime that lead to Rachel's death.  So, Dent (now Two-Face) flips his coin, and attempts to play God.  Dent recognizes that power through politics is difficult.  The truth is that people want to kill him even though he's doing a good thing.  He seems to think "Why not teach these people a lesson, and give them a dose of their own medicine?"  To act on sudden impulse gives him the same kind of power and satisfaction, but at a much faster rate.  What's the use in putting the criminals responsible for Rachel's death behind bars when he can place them six feet under?  A life of crime is more satisfying for him because he is working hard to please himself in his mad dash to gain revenge.  So basically, Dent showcases Freud's defense mechanism called projection in order to help him cope with Rachel's death (Atkinson 576).  Society was cruel and now they will pay.  It is this need to right the wrongs that have happened to him that drives Two-Face. 

     By the end of the movie, little is left of the old Harvey Dent.  However, it is important for Gordon to give him the face of the hero because he has a face.  Batman cannot be given the credit for cleaning up Gotham and must take the heat for the murders because people need to believe in the government's ability to protect.  Dent, before Rachel's death, stood for unfaltering dedication to the safety and best interest of Gotham.  Even though Dent lost his ability to believe in himself, people still needed to believe in him and the values that he stood for before he became Two-Face. 

 

two face.jpgWorks Cited

 

Atkinson, Rita L., Richard C. Atkinson, Edward E. Smith, and Daryl J. Bem. Introduction to Psychology. 10th ed. San Diego, Calif: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990.

ImageShack- Image Hosting. 16 Apr. 2009 <http://img230.imageshack.us/img230/957/twofacerb5.jpg>. 

I Watch Stuff - The Best Movie News Ever. 16 Apr. 2009 <http://www.iwatchstuff.com/2008/03/10/dark-knight-harvey-dent.jpg>.

"Pygmalion effect." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 10 Apr. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_effect>.

Standing On Common Ground. 20 Apr. 2009 http://standingoncommonground.org/images/maslows_hierarchy.gif.

20 Apr. 2009 <http://l.yimg.com/eb/ymv/us/img/flickr/27/00/002614232700.jpg>.

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