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Breaking the Chain
Fellini shows Zampano breaking the chain with his chest before the gathered crowd. It is a symbol for Zampano's strength. And, the first time Gelsomina sees this feat it represents two opposing ideas. One is that the strong man is the breaker of the chains as he symbolizes the break from the poverty of the sea shore and the excitement of becoming an artist. Second, is the idea that Zampano lords his strength over Gelsomina as a way to create a fear in her, and get her to do what he wants her to do.
We see Gelsomina planting tomato seeds in the soil where Zampano has just awoken from a drunken binge. This symbolizes her desire to be planted as an artist with the strongman and grow roots alongside him. It's quickly dismissed as he has her get in his wagon because it's time to leave this town behind and move on to the next. He is a man who has no roots, no connection to any place or person and yet these are the things Gelsomina desires and believes she will receive from this relationship.
As Gelsomina leaves her family behind with Zampano, her mother waves the girl's shaw in the air telling her to take it. Gelsomina does not return for it before leaving. This is a symbol of her leaving all that she knows behind as she will no longer have any of the familiar comforts of home. She is now a passenger on the rough road of life.
Music is a symbol of beauty and freedom in life. To be able to play ones song is the ability to know what it means to be free. Zampano gives Gelsomina a drum to play, but he demands she play his introduction the exact way he wants it to be played. He then proceeds to whip her with a stick when she gets it wrong. The beauty of the drum then symbolizes his power over her. That she is not here to be set free, but to serve his needs as she doesn't play her song, but his for fear of being physically abused.
Gelsomina in the Hole
After they perform at a wedding ceremony Gelsomina begins to weep after Zampano once again deflects the opportunity to connect with her. She then proceeds to slide into a hole that was made in the barn where they are sleeping. This is a physical representation of how Zampano is making Gelsomina feel; isolated and alone in her feelings and ability to express herself fully.
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