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Taxi Driver

Important Quotations Explained

Influences

Key Facts

1.
Travis:   "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Well, who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talkin' to?"

This is one of the most famous and often imitated soliloquies in film history. It occurs shortly after Travis has bought his guns and has decided to discipline his body, and directly after the scene where Travis gets himself tagged by one of Palantine's Secret Service agents. Travis says these macho lines to a mirror, while drawing his gun as quickly as he can to threaten the imaginary person talking to him. Roger Ebert has noted that the line "Well, I'm the only one here" echoes the central theme of the film, loneliness. Travis is so lonely that he is the only one there, forced to speak to his reflection. In the scene, Travis acts as if people commonly talk to him in a manner that merits an aggressive response. However, until this point in the film the only person who has even come close to confronting him is the clumsy and ineffectual Tom. By talking to the mirror, Travis creates a new social situation for himself, one where he is in complete control. He sees himself as a vigilante, but in reality he creates conflict where there is none, becoming his own antagonist.

This defensive soliloquy is not the first time in the film that Travis has a one-sided conversation. When he goes to see Betsy at the Palantine headquarters after she has refused to answer his calls, he is repetitive and accusatory in a way that resembles the "You talkin' to me?" speech. He says, "Why won't you talk to me? Why won't you talk to me? Why don't you answer my calls when I call you? You think I don't know you're here? You think I don't know? You think I don't know?" Instead of faulting someone for talking to him as he does in the mirror, here he is aggressive toward Betsy for not calling him. Another version of Travis's soliloquy appears even earlier in the film, when Travis is on his first date with Betsy. Betsy compares Travis to a line of a Kris Kristofferson song, and he asks, "You saying that about me?" She replies, "Who else would I be talking about?" These two questions foreshadow the question-question conversation that Travis has with himself later on. With Betsy, Travis's response is defensive and upset, while she affirms her observation with the rhetorical question, "Who else?" When Travis talks to himself in the mirror, he is the only one asking questions, endowing him with a measure of power he lacked when he talked to Betsy.

2.
Travis:   "All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention. I believe that someone should become a person like other people."

Travis writes these sentences in his diary and speaks them in a voiceover near the beginning of the film, just before he sees Betsy in her white dress. Betsy is someone to latch on to, someone with the potential to turn Travis into a person like other people. This quotation characterizes Travis during the first half of the film, while he is still half-heartedly trying to fit in, find a girlfriend, and be a hard-working member of society. He tries to "become a person" by chatting up the girl who works at the porn theater, by asking Betsy out, and by starting a conversation with Palantine in his cab. He handles each of these tasks the wrong way: porn theaters are not appropriate places to take girls on dates, and his swearing makes Palantine uncomfortable. Yet Travis does seem to be making an effort to fit in.

The second sentence of the quotation, expressing Travis's scorn for "morbid self-attention," seems particularly misplaced, even at this early moment in the film. By writing obsessively in his diary, Travis reveals that his own self-attention borders on morbidity. Travis might have a chance at becoming "a person like other people" if he could just snap out of his insular world, which consists of porn theaters, driving to dangerous places, and obsessive loathing for blacks and all that is sexually devious. Travis's attempt at dating Betsy by taking her to a pornographic movie is also part of his own "morbid self-attention." Instead of trying to become a social person, he tries to drag Betsy into his anti-social world, one where the only place to go is the intrinsically anti-social porn theater.

3.
Travis:   "Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man."

Travis says this in a voiceover early in the second half of the movie. The scene takes place after the unnamed passenger talks about shooting his wife and directly after Travis accidentally hits Iris with his cab, and just before he goes to buy his guns. The difference between this quotation and the previous diary quotation, concerning "morbid self-attention," is stark, even though both entries are about loneliness. In the first, Travis knows he is lonely but strives to fit into society, while here he fashions himself as a chosen person, a man who has been predestined to be lonely as part of a special assignment from God. He will no longer try to fit in with the rest of the world, so he fashions himself not only as an outsider but as a vigilante. Travis believes that his subsequent violent actions, including the attempted assassination of Palantine and the final bloodbath, are heroic, suggesting that "morbid self-attention" has become his main motivation.

The phrase "God's lonely man" is the title of an essay by Thomas Wolfe, an American writer from the South who lived at the beginning of the twentieth century. Schrader uses a quote from this essay as the epigraph to the screenplay: "The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon . . . is the central and inevitable fact of human existence." The ironic relationship between this quote and the moment when Travis defines himself as "God's lonely man" is that while Wolfe was trying to explain that loneliness is what all humans have in common, Travis believes that his loneliness is what makes him special and different from everyone else. Wolfe understands, however, that discovering that everyone is lonely will not help cure loneliness. His point is that although each man feels chosen, no one actually is.

4.
Wizard:   " . . . you do a thing and that's what you are . . . Get drunk, you know, do anything. 'Cause you got no choice anyway."

This quotation is part of Wizard's response to Travis when Travis tells Wizard he's down and has been getting bad ideas in his head. Betsy has rejected him, and he has just heard the unnamed passenger's homicidal speech, so he comes to Wizard, who is older and more experienced, for advice. Wizard can offer only this rambling speech, in which he claims a man is what he does. The speech refers to Wizard's own sense of failure for having never moved up in the world. Travis, however, is not feeling down about being a taxi driver, but about being rejected by Betsy and about his burgeoning violent fantasies. Wizard's speech does not speak to Travis's problems, and Travis replies, "That's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard," which puts Wizard on the defensive. Travis in part thinks that the speech is dumb because he doesn't believe his destiny is to be a taxi driver. He wants to rise up above his everyday existence and be heroic. This exchange with Wizard is another of Travis's failed attempts at personal connection.

Wizard's speech, though personal, is also prophetic, since Travis will not be able to escape his fate as a taxi driver. He is praised as a hero after saving Iris, but the newspaper articles all label him as a taxi driver. Travis planned to be a martyr and an important assassin, but since he failed at killing himself, he must return to his old profession, and he seems doomed to be a taxi driver. Although both Wizard and Travis believe the future is determined, they have different ideas about what Travis's fate will be.

5.
Betsy:   "'He's a prophet and a pusher, partly truth, partly fiction. A walking contradiction.'"

During her date with Travis, Betsy quotes lyrics from a Kris Kristofferson song to describe Travis. The song is "The Pilgrim: Chapter 33" from the 1971 album The Silver Tongued Devil and I. Betsy quotes the lyrics to the song correctly but leaves some words out, and she mixes up their order, so that the "walking contradiction" phrase, which is most important to her, comes last. At first it appears that Betsy does not really understand or appreciate Travis. Earlier in the conversation she underestimates his intelligence by believing that he really thinks "organized" is spelled "organizized." Here, Betsy seems to understand Travis perfectly, and her understanding, as this lyric suggests, is out of character. One might suspect that Schrader, the screenwriter, wanted this line to explain Travis to the audience.

Travis is a walking contradiction. He is disgusted by sex and by prostitutes, yet he surrounds himself with pornography and takes prostitutes around in his cab. He wants to be good to his body, yet he constantly takes pills and pours schnapps on his breakfast. Betsy, of course, knows nothing about these quirks. She knows Travis only from the limited and awkward conversation they've had at the diner. Perhaps she is reminded of the song because of its first two lines, which she does not quote: "See him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans, wearin' yesterday's misfortunes like a smile." These lyrics describe Travis's physical appearance perfectly. The Kristofferson lyrics provide an unusual glimpse into Travis's character, though Betsy is not even aware of the elements in Travis's life that make them particularly true.

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Influences

by mallison5, June 23, 2013

Also you should note that "Diary of a Country Priest"(1951) by Robert Bresson had a considerable influence on the film.

Travis Bickle goes berserk

by stevewilde72, February 27, 2014

The character Travis Bickle drives a taxi around and complains about all the pimps,pushers,perverts,skunkpussies,prostitutes and lowlifes that trash the streets of the city. He imagines that it needs cleaned up by him being the hero. Then he meets a young prostitute thats like 12 year old (played by Jodi Foster in movie) He don't have sex with her but just talks to her. He feels the street hustler he met earlier is holding a threat over her forcing the minor into prostitution. So he buys two guns an goes into rundown apartment building shoot... Read more

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