The Bicycle Thief is a very good film to illustrate the misery of the lower class people under the capitalist society. By setting up different social institutions and groups of people, Vittorio De Sica successfully presented the basic pattern of capitalism of exploitation and oppression. In this capitalist society, with little means of production, the lowest class can never catch up with the others. On the contrary, the higher class people are, the more means of production they have, and the more profit they can get. Contrasting the miseries that Ricci・s family suffers with the other classes・ enjoyment and luxury, the film discloses the unfairness in this capitalist society. In this paper, I will discuss the social inequalities shown in the film by analyzing Antonio・s experiences from getting a job to committing stealing and also Bruno・s victimization by being exploited again and again.
Class division not only happens between the rich and the poor, but also in a group of poor people. The lack of job opportunities presented at the beginning of the film shows the economic difficulties in that period. The poor and unemployed men were everywhere on the streets to find their jobs. However, not all the people who have the same strength or knowledge can get the job equally; only those with bicycle do. That means the poorest had fewer opportunities to get a job among the poor.
Although Antonio・s employment is a happy news to his family, it is also a burden for them. Since they have no money, in order to buy a bicycle to work, they have to sell their daily belongings. Before Antonio can get his salary, he has already lost his money in pawning his belongings for buying a bicycle.
The owner of the pawnshop actually is making profit from the customers. People go there because they need money. They pawn the things that are most valuable among their belongings, but they can only get very little money. They lose money in pawning their goods, while the owner of the pawnshop earns their money by collecting their goods in a very low price. In a sense, this rich pawnshop owner is taking advantages of the poor. Therefore, the poor gets poorer and poorer while the pawnshop owner gets richer and richer. A shot at the piles of pawned goods inside the pawnshop and the people waiting outside with their things is an obvious comparison between these two groups of people and class differences.
The loss of the bicycle is a very important issue in the film because on the one hand it shows the helplessness and poverty condition of the Ricci family. On the other hand, it leads to the searching process that shows the inequalities in the society that Antonio encounters. First of all, Antonio goes to the police station for justice. However, the policemen fail to fulfill their duty of enforcing laws and maintaining social order. Because Antonio is a poor person, the police shows no respect to him and also neglects his trouble. Antonio can not get the help from the social institution, he can only depends on himself.
Searching desperately from place to place, Antonio is driven to ask Sontano, the fortune-teller, for help and then finally to steal. As a matter of fact, this tragedy can be due to the oppression and unfairness of the upper classes that impose on Antonio.
Actually Sontano is similar to the pawnshop owner. They represent a kind of upper class power. Originally, Antonio goes to them for help (to the pawnshop for money and to Sontano for instruction). However, both of them not only haven・t given Antonio any help, but also take advantages of him when he is in trouble.
The church is a place for everyone who is faithful to god. However, it is controlled by the upper class people so called ：charitable women.； They use bread and soup, not the belief of god, to attract the poor. The poor there are only as a kind of decoration to fill the church, to satisfy their ：charitable； hearts. In a sense, these rich people actually are making use of the poor. From this example together with Santano and the police, we can see that actually neither religion, superstition nor social welfare can really help the poor.
The Ricci family in the film represents the lower class that is oppressed and treated unfairly under the capitalist society. Actually the whole family is the victim of this capitalist system. However, within the family, I think that Bruno is the most powerless victim because he is exploited again and again. Bruno not only is exploited by the Father in the church, but also is keeping exploited by his father during the searching bicycle process. As a little boy, Bruno doesn・t have time to play with his friends. Because of lack of money, he can not go to school, but spends his time in working. When he is in the church, he is asked to sweep the floor without any rewards. Besides that, during the bicycle searching process, Bruno is always with his father and helps him to find the bicycle and catch the thief. However, except the meal in the restaurant, Bruno never gets what he deserves.
As a matter of fact, not only the individual (Antonio or Bruno) in the family is affected by the poverty, but the whole family relationship. Antonio and Maria always fight for money, while the children are neglected. As a father, Antonio is not able to earn money for their living because the lack of job opportunities. As a mother, Maria is not able to take care of the children because she has to earn money for the family. Therefore, the children become the victims in a poor family, and this kind of poor family becomes a victim in the capitalist society because they can never catch up with the richer people in the society with their little means of productions.