Who is The Batman? In order to answer this question we must also ask: Who is Bruce Wayne? Yes, the two are one in the same; however, there are actually three different entities that exist in this persona. There is Bruce Wayne, the man that he is when he is with loved and trusted ones who know of his true identity.
This IS the true identity. There is the socialite Bruce Wayne, the figurative mask that he wears when he is around other socialites in the Gotham scene. Finally, there is the Batman: the persona Bruce Wayne adopts when he puts on his cape and cowl and embraces the night to fight injustice.
However, in order to fully understand these parts of the psyche, one must look at these identities the way that Sigmund Freud would.
The most important relationship between these three segments is the relationship between Bruce Wayne the socialite, and Batman. These two parts of his personality are always conflicting. In Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, when Bruce is asked by another business tycoon his thoughts on the Batman, Bruce simply replies “A guy who dresses up as a bat clearly has issues” right before he jumps into a hotel fountain with two beautiful models.
Of course, the obvious reason for this is because he wants to avoid any suspicion that he is in fact Batman. However, there is a far deeper reason. Bruce Wayne, the socialite, represents the Id. Always acting on instinct, buying cars, chasing gorgeous women, and rudely speaking his mind are his acts of basic desires.
While he is at odds, Batman represents everything he is not. Batman is driven purely by justice. He has a very strict code, does not kill, and all of this is because of what happened to him as a child. Batman represents the Superego, a function driven by high morals and childhood programming. Batman exists because of the childhood trauma that happened. This is why such a separation is played out between the entities of one man.
Bruce Wayne is not driven on instinct, nor is he driven purely by a code brought on by childhood trauma. This Bruce Wayne is the man that exists between these two realms of existence. When he is not living it up with the millionaires of Gotham, nor fighting the scum of the underground, he is living everyday life trying to figure out how to satisfy both of these identities. He is in the Batcave looking up information on his supercomputer, or he is simply trying to get a good night’s rest.
This Bruce Wayne must exist to reconcile the instinctive urges and the justice driven morals, simply because he cannot be crime fighting or hanging with the socialites all day. However, this Bruce Wayne exists also to keep the Batman in check. Bruce Wayne must make sure that Batman does not resort to killing in his crime fighting endeavors. In Darwyn Cooke’s Batman: Ego, Bruce Wayne has an existential discussion with Batman due to a trauma induced hallucination. Batman suggests “We must satisfy justice. We must kill The Joker.” Bruce Wayne refuses. For the fact that “There is a line we may never cross. No killing. It is the only difference between us and [the criminals]. As much as Batman is a terrifying symbol to the underworld, he is also a symbol for the good people of this city.”
Bruce Wayne keeps Batman from killing because he knows the type of symbol he must be to the people of Gotham. This is the role that the Ego has. Based on instinct and learned morals, he can choose what to do. These things do not control him, even if sometimes they do get out of hand.
Even though our morals and experiences may shape us, we ultimately choose right or wrong because we have free will. This is the lesson that Bruce Wayne learned the night that his parents were murdered. He could have become a madman because of this trauma. He could have gone on a killing spree and killed every criminal responsible for this. However, he chose the life because he had the morals instilled in him.