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'The Dark Knight Rises': Is Batman a Modern Day Dickens Character?

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Jul 10, 2012 | 9:38am EDT

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Forget your summer reading list. Let's be honest, you weren't going to get to it anyway. All you need is a few quality hours at the movies, thanks to The Dark Knight Rises

At a TDKR press conference yesterday, director and co-writer Christopher Nolan revealed that he and his brother, co-writer Jonathan Nolan, were inspired by the themes and events of Charles Dickens' classic novel A Tale of Two Cities when they wrote the script for the trilogy ender. According to Coming Soon, Christopher Nolan says his brother told him "You've got to think of A Tale of Two Cities which, of course, you've read" when he handed him the first draft of the script. (Oddly enough, the well-educated elder Nolan had not, but he quickly fixed the issue.)

Jonathan Nolan added that the circumstances of the classic book were a perfect fit for their Batman film. "A Tale of Two Cities was, to me, one of the most harrowing portrait of a relatable, recognizable civilization that completely folded to pieces with the terrors in Paris in France in that period. It's hard to imagine that things can go that badly wrong," he says.

And while the themes of civil unrest and inequality are obviously a huge component of the Nolan brothers' choice to pull from the story - and to some extent so are the multitudes of integral, complex characters - it's hard to ignore one grand similarity: Protagonist Charles Darnay's dire straights at the beginning of the novel and Batman's exile at the end of The Dark Knight.

When the last Nolan film concluded, we watched our hero ride off into the night, allowing the citizens of Gotham to believe that he had wrongly killed their White Knight, Harvey Dent, when in truth, he was doing away with a villain. The result is a fallen superhero turned traitor of the state, as Dent was a politician. 

At the outset of A Tale of Two Cities' Darnay's journey, he too is publicly accused of treason, this time against the crown. He is also innocent, and (spoiler alert) his name is eventually cleared of all charges thanks to the fact that he closely resembles another character. Darnay is damned by a matter of perspective: the witness assumes the figure he saw is Darnay, but it's proved that said witness was mistaken. 

We can see elements of this in Batman's condemnation. He is publicly believed to be a traitor, and from afar, he certainly looks guilty. However, those close to the situation like Commissioner Gordon, who was present when Dent died, know the less visible truth. 

And with that in mind, we can't help but wonder how closely Batman's journey might mirror Darnay's. In the novel, Darnay is acquitted and goes on to fight against the inequality in his homeland of France and by the end of the novel, he is condemned to death, but manages to escape. The Nolans obviously didn't offer any commentary on how closely their characters' paths might be inspired by Two Cities, but it's certainly worth wondering how these two heroes' journeys might match up. 

Could Batman's journey be a modern rendering of Darnay's story? What the Dickens is going to happen in Dark Knight Rises

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.

[Images: Scanned by Phillip V. Allingham/ Courtesy of Warner Bros.]

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