”The Godfather” By Mario Puzo
- Pages: 8
- Word count: 1867
- Category: Books
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Power, violence, and the American Dream. Mario Puzo’s book is one of a kind. It is one of the most popular books of this genre in the last 50 years and remains to be one of the most influential, inspiring many and various take-offs and imitations- not to mention the language and the so-called Mafia culture that came into popularity thanks to the book.
The Godfather, a book about organized crime in the 1950s set in New York, reached such heights of popularity and inspired such cult worship that its movie adaptation, by Francis Ford Coppola, is considered by many as the Mafia movie of all movies about the Mafioso.
Of the many appeals of the book, the characters take great credit for its success. Puzo managed to create and develop characters that keep the readers hooked. The first godfather in the book was Don Vito Corleone, Capo di tuti capi, captain of all captains. Born Vitone Andolini in a small Sicilian village of Corleone, he fled to America in 1901 after his father was murdered by the local mob boss Don Ciccio for not paying tribute. After his father, the rest of his family was also murdered by the Don’s henchmen.
To escape murder, he was smuggled aboard a cargo ship full of immigrants to Ellis Island. There he immediately adopted a new name. He had become Vito Corleone. In New York, he was taken by the Abbandando family.
Later on he married and started his own family. He took a job as a store clerk in the Abbandando grocery. He lost his job tough when the family was forced to give the job to Don Fanucci’s nephew. This marked the turning point of his transformation into the kind of person that the Godfather is.
He and his friend Peter Clemenza, who later on became one of his Caporegimes, started to do petty crimes and “favors” in exchange for loyalty, culminating in Vito’s first kill, Don Fanucci, the local padrone. What followed were a series of events that led to his becoming one of the most feared and respected crime lords in New York.
Don Corleone, in spite of his dark persona and a business founded on crime, gambling, and counterfeiting, he truly loved his family. He valued loyalty to his friends and above all, family.
In 1945, an assassination attempt was carried out by Virgil “the Turk” Sollozzo and his men, as well as Captain McCluskey, his bodyguard, after the Don refused to use his vast political connections to protect the drug smuggling business which Sollozzo proposes.
Of all his children, he was most proud of Michael, a decorated WWII veteran who finished college. He wanted him to live a life away from the crime world aspiring that someday he would hold some high post in the government.
Michael a Dartmouth graduate initially did not intend to be a part of the “family” business. He finished college and joined the Marines during WWII. After the war, he came back a Captain and a war hero. When he returned, he reentered Dartmouth and there met Kay Adams who later became his wife.
He of all his brothers was the least temperamental and also the smartest. He really had no intentions to join the family business had the circumstances not forced him to. After the assassination attempt on his father and the impending Mafia war with the other five New York Families, he volunteered to kill the men responsible for his father’s death. In his first murder, Michael arranges to meet with the two murderers in a Bronx restaurant. There he had a gun planted in the bathroom for him to use. During the meeting, he excused himself to go to the bathroom. He retrieved the gun and returned; shooting the two men point blank then walking out calmly after.
After the murders, he fled from the authorities to his father’s hometown in Sicily under the protection of Don Tommasino for two years. In Sicily, he met the sweet, timid, Appolonia whom he married. Unfortunately, death followed him to his hometown and Appolonia was killed in a car bomb intended for him.
He returns home to more evil tidings. Sonny is dead and he will have to take over. Don Vito has arranged for some one to take the blame for Michael’s crime and also arranged for the war to stop so he can go home. Thereafter Michael begins to learn all the tricks of the trade as he eventually becomes the Godfather.
Alfredo “Fredo” Corleone is the second eldest son and is considered the weakest of character among the brothers. Being the most foolish he was sent to Las Vegas to manage the casino business. His death is eventually ordered by Michae,l some time after their mother, Carmella’s death, for betraying him.
Santino “Sonny” Corleone is the hot-headed brother; a good soldado but a bad boss (according to Don Vito). After Michaels first murder, Sonny took over as Don for the Family. He was later killed when he rushed unescorted to Connie who had been beaten again by Carlos, Connie’s husband and betrayer of Sonny. Sonny who is more known for his rashness is not without a soft side. He was the one who befriended tom Hagen and took him into their home.
Tom Hagen is the Corleone consiegleri or legal adviser. He also served as the advisor after the Godfather’s death to Michael. His character is one of an odd man out. Being an Irish-German, he was not readily accepted as Mafia. He is however adopted bybthe foreseeing Don Vito who tells Michael that the survival of their Family no longer lies in the hands of the soldados but in the next generation of Italians who will become lawyers, accounts and doctors, etc. the Don’s motives for doing this is clear but this situation seems to allude to the parody that the next breed of criminals will be wearing Armani suits and will be going to their offices in Wall Street.
Corleane is the perfect Mafia wife. She never questioned Don Vito about his activities. She never asked about the business. In general never inquired about anything which as far as she was concerned out of her primary duty to provide a happy home for their children. For so long as Don Vito provided well and her children are sent to school, she has nothing to concern herself about. She is the complete antithesis of Kay Adams. Kay questioned Michael about everything. Unlike her submissive mother-in-law, she asked questions and meddled with Michaels affairs. She is also the complete opposite, of sweet, mild mannered virginal Appolonia whom Michael married first. She is also the perfect Mafia wife, completely opposed to Kay’s character.
Women in the Godfather’s world are insignificant. There is barely enough character development on them. They are there merely as shadows and symbols. They are so insignificant that, even when Carlos, Constantia’s (their only sister) husband who abused her, had been ordered killed by Michael, he lied to her about it.
In the novel, Virgil Sollozzo was instrumental for the story’s action. His offer to Don Vito was what stared it all. He and his bodyguard became Michael’s initiation of sorts.
There were also the Five Capos of the other Mafia families in New York namely, Barzini, Tattaglia, Stracci, Cuneo, while casino co owner was killed.
The story happened from 1936-1955; time of the great depression. The story occurs in 1950s New York which was just starting during Michael reign. A lot of the action in the book ocurred in their home and mostly during special occasions, such as birthday, funerals, etc, was in some other place.
The plot of the novel is simple original, and unpretentious. The story was simply about power, violence, money, and the American Dream. The story revolved around Don Vito with his perverted sense of morals and Michael the reluctant Don who was the family’s hope for legitimacy. Eventually Michael becomes just like his father and the cycle continues.
The book was about power. Might is right. Power begets respect. The book is also about the American Dream, every immigrants dream. In the book, the power thesis is clearly shown by the Family’s power over the life and death by many people. This power is maintained through violence and the perpetration of violence is seen as merely part and parcel of the cycle of revenge and the bid for power.
It seems a bit off tangent but the American Dream vein is still rather closely related to the aforementioned theses. Power also begets money. And money begets stability. Stability and affluence which is also two of the main elements of the dream to be middle class American with a home in the suburbs and all the children in school.
The book is very plausible. In fact it was even rumored that Puzo had to go in hiding after the release of his book to avoid the wrath of some “Italians” who weren’t too pleased with his best-seller. In fact, the book is all too believable. So much so that it has inspired a cult-like following. It can also be said that the idealized portrayals of Don Vito and the closed world in which the book revolves gives the impression that it can all be true.
However, believable isn’t always authentic. Don Vito’s world is really much more ruthless and a little coarser than as it is in the book. Puzo was able to achieve the illusion of reality by supplying small details of the Italian Daily life. He included specific information on the Italian culture such as cooking and traditions.
He also supplied details on the powers of the Don. Although many of these details are obviously more dramatic than real, these are the ingredients that wove the mirage of authenticity.
To achieve the effect of authenticity, Puzo also had to be historically accurate. The Italian traditions and political milieu of the 1950s were real. Also the characters of the book were based on actual historical characters of real life gangsters. So in essence the book was historical enough to be believable but the writers hand can still be seen taking liberties in many areas thus resulting in sometimes idealized characters.
Puzo’s writing style is very smooth and fluid. He is also able to maintain the dramatic tension in story thus effectively taking the readers’ attention and holding it. He reveals details as if they are part of the latest local buzz and so the readers are hooked to finding out more. He was also very careful to make the gangsters appear as if they were doing well or at least they were better than those they wronged; a kind of a lesser evil analogy or Robin Hood perhaps?