Travis and his taxi roam around the New York City during night. When the sun rises, he parks his taxi in the parking and leaves. He has no sleep in his eyes. All he has is disgust. Every night he explores different dirt of the city.
He is not mentally sound it appears from the outset. He looks a little jarred but we don’t know what makes his so weird. He says he cannot sleep during night. He tries watching porn but it has no effect on him. What sort of human he is, one asks to oneself while watching Travis Bickle on screen.
He has no life. He works for 8 hours a day and on some days, even for 12 hours. And even after tough work schedule, he does not get tired. The nightlife of New York City makes him ill from inside. He cannot see the dirt in front of his eyes. The prostitutes and the little girls pursuing it. The young boys falling prey to the drugs.
Travis turns out to us as the insane, weird, insomniac man. But he is different to everyone. Like for Betsy, he is a pervert. He is sick to her because he took her to a porn film. Travis does not know that a good world exists. He sees a bad world and he believes this is what exists and this is where we need to live. Betsy thinks she took a wrong decision to come to a movie with Travis. She is not wrong completely. No girl would like to go to a porn film on the first date.
But Travis cannot understand what wrong he has done. All the good couples watch this film. He has seen them coming here. He is sorry for what he has done but it is too late. He has tried sending flowers to her but all of them came back to him. He cannot feel these flowers anymore. Betsy was the only good thing in his life for a long time and now she too is a history.
What’s left with Travis is agony and a city full of dirt. In his mind, it is high time the dirt of the city was flushed in one go. This is what he tells the presidential candidate Palatine when he takes a ride in his cab. However, what Travis does not know is that he too is a part of the same dirt and the government policies might well make him disappear from here.
In reality, Travis searches for an objective to live. He has left the Marines. He is depressed. He saw Betsy and for once, he thought he has someone to live your life for. The failure to get her make him even more depressed and the depression makes him even more sick from inside.
In one scene, Travis talks to his colleague The Wizard about the negative thoughts he is getting these days. The Wizard tells him that everything is going to get all right. But Travis knows he has waited for long to get things right but to no success.
When he meets Iris, he goes more depressed. This 16-year-old girl, who is forced to sell her body to feed her stomach, makes him ill.
Travis is New York City in a nutshell. He is a lover, a protectionist, a depressed soul, a selfish human being and also partly, someone who wants to do something for others. But mostly, he is busy soul searching. And like New York City, he too cannot sleep at night.
Director Martin Scorcese through Travis try to enter the unknown streets of the city and how these streets are inroads to violence, prostitution, drugs and in Travis’ words, filth and dirt.
Travis is New York. He is any other city which is fighting its own negativity. Travis tries hard to fight it but gives up to the weapons he buys. The .44 Magnum pistol.
He is not afraid anymore. Not because he has a weapon in his pants. But because he has a purpose in life. He wants to save Iris from digging deeper into prostitution. By saving her future, he wants to safeguard his present.
Travis does manage to save Iris. He manages to take her out of the scum by risking his own life. He becomes a hero for the local press. Iris’ father thanks him for saving her life. He would have killed himself after saving Iris but the police comes to his rescue. With that pistol, he may have killed Palantine. With the same gun, he has been able to save Iris. One pistol and its contrasting after effects. Travis, finally, succeeds, in beating the negativity. His violence is to stop the society from falling prey to violence.
What happens to Travis after that remains a mystery. He may have been able to finally answer all his questions. He would have got something concrete to live all his life with. He would have lived with lesser regrets or might have died with them.
Not many knew what Travis did later on. There were many things about him which were mysterious except one thing that he had a clear conscience.