The Struggle for Identity and Commoditization in Society in Taxi Driver
In his analysis of Taxi Driver as a revisionist western, Robert Ray places Taxi Driver's protagonist Travis Bickle squarely in the mould of the solitary heroes of the western genre. He notes the unspecified origins of Travis as well as the character's initial "disinterest" in getting involved with what he considers the venality and decay of New York City (352). Perhaps also like these western heroes, Travis is directionless in his life. In addition to fighting his profound loneliness and his apparent psychosis, Travis struggles to find and maintain a real identity in an environment which is increasingly problematic for him. Under the backdrop of the commoditization of people, politics, and sexuality in 1970s America, Travis strives for self-actualization and to carve an identity out for himself distinct from his profession.
At the outset of the film, Travis is introduced as an unemployed newcomer to New York applying to be a taxi driver. He exhibits a certain amount of detachment in the interview for this job. When asked, point-blank, why he wants to become a driver, he merely replies, "I can't sleep nights" and, later, "I ride around nights mostly. Subways, buses. Figured, you know, if...
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