Travis Bickle

Travis Bickle

    Taxi Driver
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Grew Up… through the hysteria of the Cold War. While young, he joined the U.S. Marines and served in the Vietnam War. Travis did not thrive in the military, and was honorably discharged in May 1973. At 26 years old, he has found himself with “not much” education and few friends – all while battling severe depression and insomnia.

Living… in New York City, eating white bread with peach brandy and sugar for breakfast in his one-bedroom apartment. Travis moved to New York looking for a sense of purpose, but felt isolated once there – submerged in a city dominated by degenerate and criminal addicts, whores, and pimps. Travis sadly explains that, “Loneliness has followed me my whole life.” An insomniac, he cannot even escape the loneliness in his sleep.

Profession… taxi driver. Travis works 7 days a week, 12 hours a day – from six in the afternoon until six the next morning. While most cabbies do not want to leave Manhattan or even head into Harlem, Travis does not mind, and is willing to go anywhere. Because he cannot sleep, he spends his mornings hanging out with fellow cabbies, Doughboy and Wizard, or going to adult theaters to watch porn flicks.

Interests… guns, Soul Train, candy, and chatting up strangers. After being rejected by one too many women, Travis becomes increasingly paranoid and starts to have vigilante delusions. To play out his fantasies, Travis buys numerous guns and conceals them in his clothes. He also begins a grueling training regimen to build a menacing physique. In preparation of any potential fight he also acts out potential scenarios, coining the iconic comeback of, “You talkin’ to me?”

Relationship Status… single, sadly. Travis goes out on a couple dates with Betsy, a volunteer for Senator Charles Palantine’s presidential campaign. She says that Travis reminds her of a lyric from the Kris Kristofferson song “The Pilgrim – Chapter 33”: “Partly truth, partly fiction. A walking contradiction.” When Travis takes her out to a pornographic film, however, she is disgusted and refuses to see him again. Her rejection pushes Travis further down the rabbit hole.

Challenge… battling his loneliness and the anonymity that come with being a taxi driver. He copes by numbing himself with pills and alcohol. A spark of hope emerges when he tries to save a child prostitute named Iris from the city’s decay.

Personality… paranoid and unstable. Travis can be charming and extremely friendly at times, but also becomes very unreliable. He is something of a pathological liar – leading his parents to believe that he has a completely different life. Essentially, Travis has two personalities internally duking it out. As Sport, a pimp, tells him, “You’re a funny guy. But looks aren’t everything.” But if Travis explodes, as it appears he might, it won’t be funny for anyone.


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