Since the beginning of known history, human nature has been trapped in the vicious cycle of Human Predicament. As William Connolly describes the concept of predicaments in his novel, A World of Becoming, as “...a situation lived and felt from the inside… [and] is also something you seek strategies to ameliorate or rise above” (Connolly, 1121). The political theory, however, suggests that societies, on a grand or individual scale, progress through four major states of being and rule in a continuous cycle: tyranny to revolution to anarchy to competing groups, returning then to tyranny. At root, freedom is an inalienable desire. Yet, philosophers suggest that the cycle always sets back to tyranny due to a persistent craving that human minds cannot escape: order. Even one of the founding fathers, James Madison, who wrote the Constitution based on human nature functioning within a society, called government–and public institutions– “the greatest of all reflections on human nature… If men were angels, no government would be necessary” (Madison). He suggests that structure uses self-interest to direct human nature toward the most desired outcome. Such understanding of the duality of life itself–chaos and order–is unconscious–dangerously, for any modern society wishing to avoid a dystopian future where human nature infests fantastical visions. In this very realm of survivalism amidst a society where the hidden monstrosities within have become the visible criminals across the street, Christopher Nolan’s 8-time nominated film critiques modern society. The Dark Knight, rich with duality inside of an urban dystopian society where civic institutions have failed the greater good and based on a hierarchy of survivalism, comments through the desanctification of Harvey Dent–representing an idealistic view of human nature–that there are always two sides to the coin of an ever-revolving human cycle: good and evil, revenge and justice, order and chaos.

From the beginning of the film where masked clowns robbed a bank, the Joker, among them, personifies chaos. When the banker demands to know what the Joker believes in, his horrified expression is as if seeing a ghost of human nature within everyone: “I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you a little stranger” (Nolan, The Dark Knight). Annihilistic, the Joker believes in nothing. Though attempting critics may see the hidden meaning of these words, it is ultimately a meaningless argument–lacking soundness. As the very basis of chaos, this professes a desire to reveal the man behind the curtain of societal order–a system designed to cut out human nature–as existential anarchy, opposing tyranny. Naturally, following the Joker’s introduction, the film entered the famous courtroom scene where politician Harvey Dent is introduced–the only purpose served for including this interaction. Tagging the man as righteous with a good public image, his dedication to getting things done right reflects in his words to the judge following his successful close to the case, “But your honor, I’m not done yet” (Nolan, The Dark Knight). Unlike the Joker, he does believe in something: order. Revealing his double-sided coin, he tells blatantly that he “make[s] [his] own luck” (Nolan, The Dark Knight), not subject to change–or in other words, consequences of the natural state of man. He does not accept the opposing face of duality: chaos.

Entering the equation as his vigilante identity, Batman, Bruce Wayne serves as an alternate embodiment of order to Harvey: force. Lately reinforced in the film, he is ultimately a political figure of tyranny and its rule in controlling human nature because of the duality within society which suggests the inevitability of revolt. Tyrannical power is necessary to uphold justice, he believes, hinting at a fascist take on the solution to balancing chaos and order, seen later in the film when Batman invades the privacy of individualism through the sonar machine. Interestingly, he seems to earlier choose to uphold Harvey’s approach to order as a moral realistic theory, which represents order through idealism instead. He wants to believe in a world where human nature will allow a man like Harvey Dent to replace Batman as the system of justice. When Bruce Wayne is faced with Dent at a casual dinner evening, he listens intently to the man’s argument that is indirectly against Batman’s very embodiment; that public institutions failed Gotham and ultimately “appointed” Batman by their inaction and “standing by and let[ting] scum take over the city” (Nolan, The Dark Knight). He is idealizing human nature, while Batman knows people are born self-interested.

As the Joker is the very antithesis of Harvey, his terrorism is with the intention to prove morality to be a lie; his every behavior and decision is based on the realist expectation that the moment safety and basic human needs are taken away, people lose moral sense and chaos ensues. This is also a reference to the sanctuary of success in social stratification, as a philosopher at Johns Hopkins University describes in his thesis, “The Double Focus: Process and Predicmanet in Political Economy”, that it “has to be understood as something we are, something that constitutes us” (Christopher England, 39). It is the natural state. Institutional organization and rule only hides this actuality. Hence, the Joker’s great work is the corruption of Harvey Dent. Harvey’s obsession with his coin reflects his dedication to the ideas of morality and justice, and as stated, “Fair is fair” (Nolan, The Dark Knight), within his control, as he only uses a coin that reflects both what he wants. Becoming a physical embodiment of what he has fought against with his very campaign and personality, he is infested–or returned, as the Joker holds self-evident–by the original human nature: lack of basic necessity resets humans to chaos. He is Two-Face, the way human nature is two-faced. Not only is he scarred on his skin, but emotionally from a coinciding 50/50 situation in which his life and love hung on. It was chance. Now his coin is scarred on one side, reflecting his face, and is returned to being like any other coin. He acknowledges his corruption as being truthful, as “The world is cruel, and the only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair” (Nolan, The Dark Knight).

Ultimately, as anarchy and tyranny through the Human Predicament are always the last two options on the political playing field, the film concludes between the Joker and Batman: the embodiments of order and chaos. Though the scene in which the Joker is hanging before Batman whilst conversation is the most apparent of the psychological captivation the Joker draws in his portrayal of sadism, their conversation is as if Order and Chaos were negotiating their existence amongst each other. The answer is an inevitability of each other. The Joker directly acknowledges the predicament, speaking with a grin to Batman: “I think you and I are destined to do this forever” (Nolan, The Dark Knight). He understands what they are: the Joker representing chaos–anarchy–and the Batman instilling order by force–tyranny–will chase each other forever. Heroic thought to break the cycle was hope in good-natured men, but anarchy breaks man’s spirit, the way Harvey’s public turn to antagony broke Gotham’s, reinstating the cycle of the Human Predicament. It is only a tragic addition to the conclude the return to tyranny that the Joker chuckles, “What would I do without you? You complete me” (Nolan).

Though the Human Predicament plagues dystopian narratives like the corrupted city of Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s work, The Dark Knight, it is also the basis of modern society, despite its terrifying potential on a fictional scale. The duality of human nature seen in the juxtaposition of Batman and the Joker is reality; it is modern, political science between anarchy and tyranny. The film does not suggest a resolution to the cycle, instead warning that naivety is the greatest downfall. Harvey’s negligence of good and evil placed himself in a vulnerable state of not mere loss–but shock. Conclusitory, as the Joker’s direct acknowledgment of their predicament nature of chasing between order and chaos, to understand human nature is to avoid the inevitability of blindly stumbling into a corrupted hierarchy like Gotham. It is important, however, to note that Harvey Dent became a truly sadistic villain when he decided to play the game with his two-sided coin exactly as it was: upon chance. Perhaps the answer to balance lies somewhere along the point of recognizing that society is not required to play according to duality by natural obligation reinforced by false dichotomy.

Works Cited

Connolly, William E. “A World of Becoming.” Duke University Press, 27 Dec. 2010,

England, Christopher. The Double Focus: Process and Predicament in Political Economy.

Hamilton, Alexander, and James Madison. “Research Guides: Federalist Papers: Primary Documents in American History: Federalist Nos. 51-60.” Federalist Nos. 51-60 - Federalist Papers: Primary Documents in American History - Research Guides at Library of Congress, New York Packet,,on%20government%20would%20be%20necessary

Nolan, Christopher, director. The Dark Knight. Warner Bros. Pictures, Accessed 12 Feb. 2023

A.R. Hansen

Author of Battle of the Mind