This paper analyzes the film entitled “The Taxi Driver”, and it will be largely centered on the behavior of Travis Bickle based on Schopenhauer. The film is portrayed as a gritty, disturbing, nightmarish, modern film classic, which critically examines the practice of human being alienation in the modern urban society. The film further explores the psychological behavior of the taxi driver. Travis Bickle, who is played by the famous actor, Robert De Niro, is presented as an obsessed, inarticulate, lonely antihero taxi driver, who directs his frustration and anger at the street dwellers of the New York City and at the presidential candidate (Taxi Driver). His unhinging assault stems from his deep attachment and efforts to attempt to rescue a young prostitute, Iris, aged 12 years, (played by Jodie Foster), and tries to foster her from the life of prostitution. The film also brings out the character of Travis Bickle as a failure in relation to a capitalist system that was in place during that time. This is seen, when the working class position of Travis is compared to those citizens, who have already been disenfranchised in accordance with the socioeconomic class, gender, color, race, and origin. The film, therefore, relates Travis to the painful structure of willing through the struggles and tribulations he has to go through in the career of a taxi driver.
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Travis Bickle is characterized as a person with a violent conduct, and this makes it difficult for him to coexist with his fellow citizens in the streets of the New York City. In order to survive in the unforgiving and unpalatable social environment, Travis had to change into a totally different person (Howard 13). He had to adopt the violent nature depicted in the film in order to stay relevant in the community. It is, therefore, evident that the natural surroundings of the place, where Travis resided, had largely contributed to the development of his violent conduct. The feelings of alienation from the rest of the society make him be both intellectually and emotionally distressed. These feelings of uneasiness and discomfort are partly caused by the effects of the post-Vietnam war and the alienation he suffers from his own people. Travis does not have a distinct identity and this compels him to turn to devilish ways in order to make him realize his American dream. He is prepared to achieve independency and socioeconomic status-quo by use of any means. The mixing of identity is evidenced by the dressing code and the type of grooming, such as the Mohawk haircut that he sports in the film. The lack of identity, therefore, is the main challenge that faces Travis’ life; his inability to solve the problem at an early stage poses him with the myriad problems that he has to deal with in his daily life.
Travis does not achieve his main objective, which is denial of the will. This is evident from the film because we learn that he is suffering from severe insomnia and depression and this compels him to take the full time job as a taxi driver after returning from the war in Vietnam. Travis becomes a workaholic and he has to work 12-hour shifts daily during almost the whole week. During his daily routine work, he meets various people, who are social misfits, and Travis secretly harbors interest of wiping them from the face of the world. Some of his daily customers include pimps, addicts, and thieves, who visibly disgust him to the point of fantasizing about their death at his hands. Travis portrays the character of bestiality and inhuman carnage and this makes him be socially dangerous. His desire to kill his fellow human beings shows that he is merciless and unsuspecting to his customers and this makes him be lethal and deadly. Travis also portrays the behavior of pretense and cunning. This is shown by his quirky sense of humor. For instance, he befriends Betsy, who works in a local campaign team for one of the presidential candidates. His main aim is to kill the presidential candidate but these evil plans and antics are unraveled by the detailed security in time before he commits the heinous crime. Despite this great escape, Travis goes on the rampage and shoots at the people, who are trying to sleep with the 12-years-old girl, whom he had become obsessed with (Taxi Driver). At the end he succumbs to the severe injuries he received in his efforts to save Iris from the social crime of prostitution.
The movie “Taxi Driver” also depicts Travis partly as a hero, because he saves the 12-years-old girl from prostitution. The parents of the young girl admire his heroism and thank him for returning their only daughter to them. The media led by the local newspapers also portray Travis as a hero. This part shows the positive side of Travis. It shows that he cared for the lives of the young people; hence, his efforts to save her from the cruel life of prostitution and his affection for the little girl were endearing and patient (Woolf 63). Another character, which comes out of the violent character of Travis, is that he actually wanted a society that was disciplined and responsible. He was frustrated and annoyed by the social evils that were being practiced in the society, and it is his desire to come up with a clean society that led him to buy the guns. He also dedicates himself to a program of intense physical training, which clearly demonstrates his strong will and determination to transform the society to a better place albeit by the wrong means. The film also brings out the feelings of detachment from the society by Travis. These feelings of alienation from the rest of the world that Travis portrays happen, when they go out for the porn cinema on their first serious date with Betsy. His feelings of detachment prevent him from fully expressing his true love for Betsy. We also realize that all the hope of a fulfilling future he had with Betsy immediately disappears after she rejects his offer. This, therefore, shows that Travis was endowed with the perseveranceand patience to achieve his dreams, and this ultimately points out to the painful structure of willing despite the efforts he had put in (Alkon 75).
After suffering the pain that comes from rejection, Travis Bickle starts a new life, which is marked by a downward spiral in everything that he attempts to accomplish. His life continuous to be more miserable and he changes to the life of a vigilante man. The film also unveils that Travis is even insane enough to pull a trigger. All these emotions stem from the fact that he was rejected by Betsy and he cannot find the strength and courage to face the world. For him, Betsy represented the beacon of hope, and he had gradually developed strong feelings of love and fondness for her. Being rejected made him to completely change his course of life. His sudden change of life is completely understandable, given the fact that the society that surrounded him was poisonous and unbearable (Lawrence 37). All the people he encountered lacked self-responsibility and self-discipline and they had indulged themselves in a world of hopelessness and emptiness. The film also unveils the fact that the American nation was deeply wounded in terms of culture. All the good values had been washed away and all that remained was few people that truly cared about themselves and the general life of the society. This further explains the reason that makes Travis Bickle to be related with the painful structure of willing that was existent in America.
It is through this film that Travis portrays the evils and rotten culture that existed throughout the land of America. He represents the culture of discontentment, decay, and decadence that was largely evident in the country during that time. His willingness to put an end to all these tragedies in terms of social disorders speaks volume of the extent the problem had grown. Travis, therefore, vindicate that it will take probably a mentally unfit human person and probably, a psychopath, in this case to right all the wrongs that were being committed by the American people, and to make the whole society a better place to live in. For the film to suggest that it will take probably a mentally disordered person to arrest the situation that was already becoming worse, shows that Travis Bickle was fighting a losing battle, and this clearly captures the reality in a fundamental way that he could not achieve the denial of will. It, therefore, implies that it will not take one person but the cooperation of all the individuals in the society to transform it into a straight-forward thinking society (Cole 41). The responsible authorities and the government are engaging themselves at a minimal level and this leads to the development of the feelings of frustration that were being depicted by Travis. The film, therefore, presents a valid argument to the society in general that we all need to critically examine our ways and to ensure that as long as we are alive, it is our duty to behave responsibly through our societal behavior. The film, therefore, shows that Travis Bickle did not achieve the denial of will, and it will only take the cooperation of the entire nation to achieve this noble mission.