Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese is a disturbing and a gritty movie that reflects a modern film classic where filmmakers display nightmares and the alienation present in the urban society. When considered from a postmodern perspective, Taxi Driver brings together the traits of urban melodrama, horror, noir and western as it explores the psychological madness of inarticulate, obsessed and lonely antihero; a taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro).
Travis Bickle takes his anger out on the street dwellers of New York and a presidential candidate. His assault is combined with the process of rescuing a young prostitute named Iris. It is important to state that Taxi Driver reflects political scenery in the sense that it was produced a decade after the Vietnam war had ended and president Nixon resigned because of the Watergate scandal. The film exposed the real world scenario by revealing the crime that was going on in America. Travis Bickle’s antiheroic character is linked to the failure of the capitalistic political system that characterizes his work as a taxi driver against the people who have been favored with respect to the socioeconomic positions they occupy in the society, in terms of class, race and gender (Wicks).
Travis Bickle is obsessed by the painful desire to fit into the society and to be like the rest of the people. However, the circumstances around him do not allow this wish to come true. Travis Bickle is too psychologically disturbed to be able to act normally and fulfill his desires. At the beginning of the film, the audience meets Travis Bickle at his best. However, the best side of him is still not, what he wishes to be. He cannot maintain his stability as a normal person. The audience sees Travis as a person who cannot sleep, pops pills, drinks heavily and spends most of his morning hours in porn theaters. It represents a clear picture of a person who is not content with the things happening to him and around him. He is struggling to make something happen and this reflects his will to change the circumstances he finds himself in. After Betsy rejects him, Travis Bickle becomes hysterical, obsessive and violent. He loses his self-awareness and gets into a situation where he believes that by shooting a presidential candidate and then killing himself he will become a hero. All this is a belief and struggle of a person who has the will to be a hero by doing something unique and being accepted into the wider society (Scorsese).
The power of will changes Travis from a wounded person to a hardened one, who distances himself through violence as a way of showing frustration because of the difficultly of fulfilling his will. Travis tests the sympathy of the audience by engaging in acts of violence. However, there is one thing that prevents Travis from becoming a complete monster because of the failure to embody his dream. His determination and will to save Iris makes him worried and somewhat restraint. Travis has reached a point where he believes that he has distanced himself from people and worldly feelings in order to become a soldier who can reach his aim no matter the circumstance. However, his feelings and concerns for Iris proves him wrong as this displays an aspect of humanity in him that the audience did not expect to see in this hero.
Schopenhauer would likely agree with the behavior that Travis Bickle expresses because Travis in a way shares his view of the world with that of Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer views the world as a dark place similar to hell and men are the ones who are the devils, on one hand and on the other, those who are tormented by it. Travis has excruciating experiences both as a soldier in the Vietnam War and as a veteran. When he has come back from war, Travis seems not to adapt to the normal life again because of the sleepless nights, heavily drinking and heavy use of pills. This clearly shows that Travis is tormented inside but has the will to change his circumstances. Travis only managed to relate to the people who were alienated just like him. These were the only people he opened up to because they had something in common with him. He views the world to be more alienated than he is and this makes it hard for him to socialize with the people whom he considers to be out of his social stratum. Travis and Schopenhauer view the society and the others in the same way. While Schopenhauer considered some people to be his fellow sufferers in the world he lived in and the other people, who had a different lifestyle, where aliens to him. This reflects the exact world where Travis lives. It is the world of capitalism where the society is differentiated in terms of class, race and power (Wicks 17).
Schopenhauer would also have analyzed Travis Bickle’s behavior based on the belief that existence is typified by unrest. Travis Bickle’s existence clearly depicts this belief as he struggles with insomnia, alcoholism, pornography and the use of drugs. Travis was extremely disturbed to the extent that he could not sleep. This forces him to go to pornographic theatres and engage in alcoholism and drug abuse in order to compensate for his suffering and lack of sleep. Travis also struggles to make himself someone that the society adores or fears by engaging in acts of violence. On several occasions, he is planning a murder. At some point, it is not even clear why he resorts to violence. However, he considers the assassination of the presidential candidate followed by a suicide to be a heroic act. Ofcourse, this will not make him a hero (Wicks 27).
Both Schopenhauer and Travis seem to be living in a world where their feelings are displaced because they do not live in the world of uniformity and justice for all human beings. They live in the world where injustices and suffering are characteristic of the everyday life. No one seems to care about what the other person is feeling or going through. The few, who can fight the circumstances they find themselves in, are preoccupied with their own suffering and cannot help each other. The best they can do is just share, listen and leave their issues unsolved. It is the responsibility of individuals to carry their own burden and to struggle to get themselves out of tough situation. Therefore, Schopenhauer would condone Travis Bickle’s behavior because both of them struggle to survive in their conditions. Perhaps, the point where Schopenhauer’s behavior would differ from Travis Bickle’s is the amount of violence that Travis Bickle employs in trying to live in the society. Travis has turned to extreme violence and the only person who prevents him from becoming monstrous is Iris.
Schopenhauer would consider Travis to fail to achieve the ‘Denial of Will’. Schopenhauer’s position would have been heavily based on the instance where Travis Bickle admits that he failed to achieve what he seems to believe in by saying, “Now I see it clearly. My whole life is pointed in one direction. I see that now. There never has been any choice in it for me.” (Scorsese) He makes this statement after engaging in various issues to propagate his will and continues to do so even after saying it. This statement shows that Travis is not willing to go in the direction that he headed. However, this is contradictory to the activities and behaviors that he is engaging into. Travis wished to mitigate or solve the situation he found himself in. This is clearly seen in what he does. For instance, when he experiences insomnia, he decides to engage in alcoholism, visit pornographic theatres and pop pills. Travis is also searching for something that will make him a hero. This is seen as he is determined to save Iris from her pimp, Sport. He also plans to kill Palantine. Travis’ lack of achievement in denial of will is also seen where he plans to assassinate the presidential candidate and shoot himself because he sees this as a heroic act (Wicks 49).
In conclusion, Schopenhauer would analyze Travis Bickle’s behavior by approving his behavior because they both seem to share the same worldview that makes men devils and torments them at the same time. However, in the achievement of ‘Denial of Will’, Schopenhauer would have stated that Travis did not achieve it as he does contrary to the belief that his life is pointed to a single direction.