Essay on Religion & Purification in Taxi Driver

Essay on Religion & Purification in Taxi Driver

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"He's a profit and a pusher.
Partly truth partly fiction.
A walking contradiction." - Kris Kirstofferson

In Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle repeatedly expresses two ideas that are central to the film. First, Travis has an undying wish to purify the world. He wants to rid his city of all the evil and scum that currently inhabits the city's cold and damp streets. Second, is the method by which Travis tries to obtain his goals. Travis Bickle tries to clean up his city by methods similar to those of religious figures. He even takes on a role as a savior figure. Travis Bickle's quest to save the world via religious ideas fails, and instead results is a bloodbath.

The first place where we are introduced to the theme of scum inhabiting New Youk is in the very first frame of the film. Here, we see nothing more than steam billowing out of a sewer. This image is repeated in almost every scene. Perhaps Jack Kroll said it best, "Out of a cloud of steam, hissing and spuming from a manhole, the snout of a New York taxi emerges" (Kroll 186). The ooze that seeps through these sewers is exactly what Travis wishes to rid his world of. In his mind, he is enveloped by the hell filled with the scum and filth that surrounds him.

The viewer need not look farther than Travis's first monologue in order to see his innermost thoughts on the city. His journal acts as an outlet for these often crude yet telling feelings. "Thank God for the rain which has helped wash away the garbage and the trash from the sidewalk... All the animals come out at night. Whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies... Someday a real rain will come and wash this scum off the streets." This rain that Travis speaks of e...


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...ame quotation. "Betsy is wrong. He is not a contradiction but a thing of disconnected parts, any one of which can take momentary precedence until another disconnected part, or another influence, a word, or mutant perception, jars momentarily into place." (Kolker 229) Travis is a multifaceted character, whose quest for purity ultimately ruins him. While his intention may have been good, the means bywhich he tried to obtain them were far from appropriate.

Works Cited

Kael, Pauline. "Underground Man." The New Yorker 9 Feb. 1976.

Kolker, Robert. A Cinema of Loneliness. New York: Oxford Press, 2000.

Kroll, Jack. "Taxi Driver." Newsweek 1 Mar. 1976.

Magill, Frank N.. Magill's Survy of Cinema, Vol. 4. Englewood Cliffs: 1980.

Peary, Danny. Cult Movies 2. New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1983.

Schickel, Richard. "Taxi Driver." Time 16 Feb. 1976.

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