The Other Side Of The Coin: Two-Face And The Representation Of Duality

Being human involves having different layers to your personality. Everyone is capable of doing good and bad, which is why I find characters who show human flaws to be fascinating. When it comes to representing duality, Two- Face is an ideal villain. As one of Batman’s most important rogues, Two -Face has been an ally and enemy to The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent is a man of the law, while Two-Face is a criminal hell bent on taking over Gotham. Both sides come together to create a multi-faceted villain. The Comic Vault is taking a look into Two-Face’s psychology to see what drives his motivations.

A flip of the coin

In order to understand Two-Face’s psychology, it’s important to examine his origins. As a boy, Harvey Dent had an unhappy childhood. He was beaten regularly by his father, who made the choice by flipping a lucky coin. The coin became a reoccurring theme in Dent’s life, which he used to make crucial decisions. The abuse he suffered made him unable to make any choices of his own.

At a young age, Dent was diagnosed with bipolarism , but he decided to hide his illness. Dent channelled all of his energy into Gotham’s justice system, rising to become district attorney at 26. Through his law career, Dent developed a close friendship with Bruce Wayne. Bruce chose to see the good in Dent and what he could do for the city.

Everything changed during a cross-examination with a mobster called Sal Maroni. The gangster tossed sulfuric acid into Dent’s face, scarring him horrifically. The trauma aggravated Dent’s mental illness, giving birth to the Two-Face identity. He burned one side of his father’s coin and it became Two-Face’s method of making a decision.

Batman’s relationship with Two-Face is extremely complex. On one level, Bruce felt like he failed Harvey. He’s gone out of his way to try and cure him, though the Two-Face personality has always reasserted itself.

This happened during the Hush arc, when Harvey repaired his face with plastic surgery. Dent took the law into his hands by manipulating the law to free Joker and shooting Hush. At one point, Batman tasked Dent with protecting Gotham, but this proved to be short-lived. Suffering from hallucinations, Dent burned his face again and returned to being a villain.

Leaving everything to chance

Two-Face’s obsession with duality has manifested physically and psychologically. His scars and his coin highlight the split between the Dent and Two-Face personalities. More than that, they represent his fixation for chance. In Two-Face’s mind, the coin removes all responsibility of his actions. If it lands on the unscarred side, then he may commit a benevolent act. If the coin lands on the scarred side, then he’ll follow through with crime and murder. Either way, Dent is deluding himself into believing he has no control over his choices.

Even when Dent cured his physical scars, his bipolarism remained. For all his talk of justice, the Dent personality still decided to manipulate the law to his advantage. It could be argued Dent was always destined to go down a dark path. Even during the early days of his career, he chose to ignore his illness. Instead of getting help, he let it build and build within an unhealthy environment. But if he’d addressed his problems sooner, Dent might have found a way to manage his condition.

In terms of his relationship with Batman, I think Two-Face represents the slippery slope Bruce could fall down. If Batman didn’t have his own support network, then the darkness could have consumed him. Bruce Wayne and Batman are two sides of the same coin, just as Harvey Dent and Two-Face are. At his core, Two-Face is a manifestation of the flaws within us all. It’s why he’s one of the most intriguing villains in pop culture.

Want to know more about the psychology of Batman’s Rogue Gallery? Be sure to read my analysis of the following characters:

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Author: thecomicvault

Short story writer, comic geek and cosplayer hailing from Manchester, England. Find my pop culture ramblings on The Comic Vault.

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