The theme of this story is the compassion that allows close-knit, small-town Italians in the 1930's to lead a meaningful existence in the context of Fascist oppression and economic hardship.
This story is culturally valuable because it shows the beauty of meaningfully existing, unchanged, amid destructive and oppressive forces. When a peacock lands in the snow with its beautiful, vibrant blue and green feathers, it exemplifies beauty, simply existing, within harsh conditions. The point of the story is not that the characters of this small Italian town make any world-altering advances, but rather that they maintain what they already have and admire--their sense of community and individual compassion--despite oppressive odds. Fellini gives his audience mischievous adolescents, oblivious teachers, a "crazy" uncle, a humorous grandfather, an idealistic and extremely feminine beauty, a generous but sickly mother and her easily-angered husband, dissatisfied workers, a story-telling lawyer, a prince, and a lying snack vendor. And none of these characters is ever treated inhumanely, or as being of any less value than any other. The uncle has an episode in which he climbs a tree and throws rocks at people who try to get him down, all the while yelling, "I want a woman!" Hours pass and the doctor who eventually comes to get him down remarks, "He has normal days, and he has not normal days...Just like us." Through the interaction of these characters, Fellini allows his audiences to encounter a town, the families, a community, and the simple life that exists within it. This film is powerful because it is saying that one does not have to defeat oppression to be worthy of being a model, seen and honored. You have only to live, to be yourself--which means to create--to be something powerful and moving.