According to Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, humans share an innate collective unconscious. We infer universal understanding from specific symbols, peoples, terms, processes or specific objects in the world around us. Jung’s framework, known as Jungian archetypes, outlines five main archetype categories: the Self, the Shadow, the Anima, the Animus, and the Persona.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins analyzes the powerful effects these archetypes have on society and specifically the character of Bruce Wayne. Each main Jungian archetype is present in Batman Begins.
The Shadow represents the repressed emotions and thoughts that live within our subconscious. These are the traits, fears and thoughts we often hide from others and ourselves – our dark side.
While playing in his family’s garden, Bruce Wayne accidentally falls down a hidden well. Bruce, injured from the fall, hears strange noises coming from a shadowy area at the bottom of the well. Hundreds of bats emerge from the shadow and swarm the young boy. Bruce Wayne wakes up. The memory was just a nightmare. He still carries his childhood fear with him. The bats are Bruce Wayne’s external tormenters that conform to the Shadow archetype.
The Self represents the entirety of a person’s consciousness and unconscious thoughts, his or her entire being. It’s the center of what makes each person an individual separate from the external world.
The story begins with Bruce Wayne waking up from a nightmare. He’s in a foreign prison which is a metaphor for the guilt and fear that imprison his Self. Bruce has lost who he is.
After Bruce completes his training with the League of Shadows, he begins to create an incorruptible symbol that will inspire the people of Gotham. While building this symbolic crime fighter, Bruce Wayne notices a bat flying in his mansion. He realizes who he must become. He quickly travels down to the very cave he fell into as a boy, turns a light onto himself and allows bats (his fears) to surround his entire body. He has discovered his Self. He is Batman.
The Anima represents the feminine aspect of a male psyche; the animus is the male aspect of a female psyche. With our Anima or Animus we are able to connect to the collective unconscious.
Rachel Dawes is Bruce Wayne’s anima. She educates him on the importance of true justice through societal laws and not violent revenge.
The Persona is our mask or what we allow the world to see and understand about ourselves. We use our mask to protects our ego (conscious mind) from negative messages.
Bruce Wayne has committed his Self to Batman. His persona, a billionaire playboy, protects hi loved ones from his enemies; and ensures Batman isn’t associated with any one man.
Archetypes are represented in many different forms but there are reoccurring archetypal figures that appear in life and literature. Batman Begins has many of the most common archetypal figures.
The Wise Old Man
Thomas Wayne built a low-cost public transportation system throughout Gotham to unite the city and inspire the rich to invest money back into the city. Following his father’s beliefs, Bruce Wayne creates an archetypical hero to destroy the fear among the good people of Gotham and inspire the citizens to fight back against injustice.