The Dark Knight and Defining Evil

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Based on the excerpt from Evil: A Primer, William Hart goes through a painstaking process in trying to pin down the definition of evil. “Despite five thousand years of recorded human wrong doing, despite all that out prophets and scholars and poets and undead homicidal maniacs have told us, the origin and definition of evil remain impossible to pin down” (Hart 2). Hart tries to define evil and in the end he is able to boil the root of evil to a lengthy list of criteria and an empty definition. This inability to define evil manifests itself in out literature, politics and especially our entertainment. Films like The Dark Knight portray how evil can range from a true hero that is seen as a threat or villain to society to maniac that kills steals and wreaks havoc with no reason, like The Joker. In The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan portrays the difficulty in defining evil and the many forms evil can take in our society through the complex relationships between Batman, The Joker and Harvey Dent.

William Hart describes clearly how difficult evil is to define and it is apparent if you were to look up the word evil in the dictionary. In the Oxford English Dictionary there are dozens of definitions for the word including; “To harm or injure; to ill treat; to affect with disease; to fall ill or be sick; something morally depraved, bad, wicked, and vicious”. Hart’s process in trying to define evil includes many criteria that make it difficult to understand. In the end Hart simply defines evil as “a human act that causes harm to innocents and attacks our basic moral order” (Hart 22). This unsatisfactory definition doesn’t leave much to work with. The reason that Hart’s definition is so inadequate is because, like Hart stated, for over f...

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... such as mob bosses like Maroni, maniacs like The Joker, and heroes like Harvey Dent and Batman. Nolan uses heroic exceptionality and the importance of social order to show us that evil can be portrayed in many forms and “good” can take forms that are false. Batman’s public image as the evil doer or the villain shows that we cannot define evil in a simple or correct way, that sometimes good is bad and bad is good.

Works Cited

1. Hart, William. Evil: A Primer: A History of a Bad Idea from Beelzebub to Bin Laden. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2004.

2. McGowan, Todd. "The exceptional darkeness of "The Dark Knight"." Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media (2009).

3. Riegler, Thomas. "The "Mastermnd": Personifications of Evil in the Cinema." inter- disciplinary. 16 3 2010 .

4. The Dark Knight. Dir. Christopher Nolan. 2008.
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