Zampano as the Prodigal Son
In the film La Strada by Frederico Fellini, Zampano, one of the main characters, can be compared to the Lucan story of the "Prodigal Son". The Prodigal Son represents thoughtlessness, light-mindedness and immaturity. In the story, a young man grew increasingly tired of living at home under the rule of his mother and father. He was the heir of a grand estate so he elected to leave home with his share of the inheritance. He was tempted by the outside world and left his father's home to gorge him self with the pleasures civilization offered. The Prodigal son's impatience and lust for independence resulted in him feeding with the pigs and cowering back to his father's home in search of
We do not see Zampano as a young man, nor do we see his earthly father. It may be assumed that his father is God the Father. We do not know why Zampano choose his profession but throughout the film, there are numerous allusions connecting Zampano with the Prodigal Son. First of all, Zampano can be said to represent the earth. The earth signifies man's carnal nature, which is deemed sinful. Zampano is a very strong man. His very act is to break chains with his chest and he knows his act well. He is very aggressive and proud of himself. Zampano is the epitome of independence. He runs about in a motorcycle type vehicle with a built in enclosure, which he uses as shelter and storage space. It isn't until the movie progresses that we can compare Zampano to that of the Prodigal Son.
Zampano's journey is not easy to decipher. We constantly are reminded of "the road" and often see the road with Zampano traveling from one town to another. We also hear the road even if we do not see it. Perhaps Fellini wants to remind us that even though Zampano is the one to focus on, others are also searching for their own independence and further removing themselves from their fathers, be they birth fathers or God.
Zampano begins to resemble the Proidigal Son in the scene where he and Gelsomina have arrived at a party or wedding to perform their act. Zampano sits and plays the drum, a very earthly, rhythmic instrument, while Gelsomina performs. In the background are farm animals. More specifically, pigs. Pigs are thought to be "unclean" by the Jews, the lowest of life and that is why they do not eat pork. The children chase away the pigs and when the performance is finished, Zampano takes a drink and he and Gelsomina gather food from the ground, like pigs. Fellini wants the audience to begin to associate Zampano as being like the Prodigal Son. ItUs no mistake that the pigs are in the scene.
In another scene where Zampano is displaying his earthly manner is when he and Gelsomina are in a restaurant. Zampano sits and impatiently yells for service. He orders a double portion of food and gorges himself. He drinks a great amount of wine. His journey away from God continues with him beckoning to a woman, which he calls red head. Hey red head he says. This woman is a prostitute. After Zampano playfully slaps her on her behind, he offers her a drink and calls for more wine. He used to call Gelsomina his wife but when he introduces her as his partner we know that he does not want the prostitute to leave. Zampano is also very proud that he makes a good deal of money from his act. In a short time, he says, he makes a lot of money. He flashes his money and the prostitute now knows that he is able to pay her and she wants to leave. Zampano agrees to leave and he pays for the food and drink. He also purchases two more bottles of wine. The prostitute makes a remark that the place stinks before they leave. Could it stink because of the nature of the impiety that occurs? Possibly. He and the prostitute leave Gelsomina by herself so they can go about their business. We then find Zampano sleeping but alone. He must have had a good night with the prostitute and is sleeping of last night's drink. His estrangement from his home (which may as well
be God's Kingdom) is widening, his emptiness and want for self gratification seem insatiable. He resorts to shameful pursuits, which don't help him in finding his way back to God. Every day, he gives himself up more and more to the world.
Zampano, a brutish man, of whom life has made an outcast, continues his life after Gelsomina's death due to her going insane. Zampano loved this woman but did not know it. His life was torn between the spiritual and the carnal and it is in the end of the film that we see a defeated Zampano. The frivolity of life has beaten him and he turns to
the sea and this is where Zampano hits rock bottom and he begins his journey back to his home. When he hears the tune that the woman who is hanging up pure white sheets sings, it must remind him greatly of Gelsomina. His thirst for enjoyment ends and like the Prodigal Son, whose journey is a journey into oblivion, Zampano completes his ruin and throughout his life, the realization of the vileness and truths must have been convincing enough. His slowness in grasping the knowledge of what he ought to have been doing resulted in him losing Gelsomina but perhaps if Gelsomina did not die, he never would have completed his circle. Zampano's journey was a journey into the mouth of despair. The Prodigal Son was brought to his senses, as was Zampano. They were fortunate to find the "right" path once again but how easy it is to continue on the path of self-defeat, resulting in complete eternal ruin.