Books Culture Family Film Literature Love Morality News Paul Krause Senior Contributors St. Augustine Tragedy

Family, Love, and Tragedy in “The Godfather” ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Family, Love, and Tragedy in "The Godfather" ~ The Imaginative Conservative

The Godfather is the Augustinian movie par excellence–although it doesn’t conclude the place Augustine’s imaginative and prescient ends…

The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, was the best-selling e-book when it was first revealed and the movie adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola is rightly thought-about a masterpiece. The drama of The Godfather is an epic; it’s an epic as a result of it offers with the quintessential themes that each one epics cope with: household, love, and time. It’s a drama that wrestles with the complexities of the human coronary heart, the human situation, and the fallenness of man. As such, it captures the odyssey of the human coronary heart poignantly.

As an imaginative murals, The Godfather is the Augustinian movie par excellence—although it doesn’t conclude the place Augustine’s imaginative and prescient ends. I shall return to this theme later. Moreover, the movie is a deeply conventional one—for this one want solely take a look at the themes it considerations itself with: household, love, and loyalty. What causes the story to advance is the breach of the code of household loyalty. Transgression towards the household, particularly the filial head, which is the movie’s equal to sin, all the time calls for punishment.

The first member working for the Corleone household to be killed is Paulie Gatto, Peter Clemenza’s right-hand man and groomed successor. Within the novel Paulie is given a extra outstanding position as one of many males chosen to take revenge for the beating of Amerigo Bonasera’s daughter, one of many “trusted” males chosen for fulfilling Bonasera’s request. Paulie additionally serves as Vito Corleone’s bodyguard and driver, a place that places him near the household head which Sollozzo exploits to perpetrate the failed assassination try on the Godfather. Sonny has no illusions that he’s the traitor who “sold out the old man.” The first individual to betray conventional values of loyalty to household is killed off letting the viewer know what values matter in the Corleone household. Loyalty to household is the whole lot and there are well-established boundaries that aren’t meant to be crossed; when these boundaries are crossed there are penalties to pay.

Certainly, the Corleone household is classical to the core. Vito Corleone is the undisputed pater familias and handled as God—for the top of the household is the supply of affection and stability in the in any other case chilly and chaotic civitas terrena that the Corleones discover themselves in. Like the normal cult of the daddy sure up in the follow of filial piety, “Pop” or “Papa” is the cornerstone on which the Corleones act and assume—and each phrases are ones of endearment and affection (as is “Godfather”). Imitatio Dei is changed by imitatio pater. It’s the highest aspiration that a Corleone can have.

On the finish of the second movie Sonny takes satisfaction that he talks like Vito in declaring “your country ain’t your blood.” Connie’s reconciliation with Michael on the wake of their mom is due to her revelation that Michael is appearing like their father did—out of affection and safety for the household. Fredo needs he might “be more like Pop.” Moreover, Michael confides to Tom after the failed assassination try on him that Vito taught him easy methods to assume like these round him and tells Frank Pentangeli that his father taught him to, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Vito Corleone’s headship is in all places even after he died. When Michael involves his mom for an intimate speak about household the dialog begins with Michael eager to know what his father really thought, not in his thoughts however his coronary heart, “Tell me something, Ma. What did Papa think deep in his heart?” Such the Augustinian second.

The first act of The Godfather facilities round Vito Corleone because the getting older however clever patriarch of his household and his household’s felony empire. It establishes the Corleone household and the values that they function by. The revenge sought towards Sollozzo (and McClusky by contingent relationship) is for the tried assassination of the patriarch of the household. Sonny and Michael gained’t relaxation till Sollozzo is put to his grave for having stepped over a line in trying to kill the top of the Corleone household which was a boundary of transgression that Sollozzo—and these underneath his thumb like McClusky—have to be punished for.

However what prompted the hit towards the Godfather in the primary place was Sonny’s uncontrollable outburst on the assembly with Sollozzo. “Never tell anybody outside of the family what you’re thinking again” Vito chides his son. Sollozzo thought that if he might get rid of Vito Corleone from the image and intimidate Sonny into management (by means of Tom Hagan) he might get what he wanted from the Corleone household to start a profitable drug commerce in New York Metropolis.

There’s tragic irony in this. Sonny is devotedly loyal to his father. However his ardour all the time will get the higher of him. His unintentional enthusiasm for Sollozzo’s deal lands his father in the hospital and units off the cascade of occasions that concludes with Michael murdering the Turk and corrupt Irish police captain and fleeing to Sicily as Sonny crossed a boundary (unintentionally), and each transgression of the boundaries of household results in penalties. On the finish of the day it isn’t till Sonny’s demise, which started together with his unintentional transgression, that concludes the warfare between the households. (Which then units up Michael’s rise to take revenge for what occurred to Sonny.)

Vito Corleone runs his household, and empire, by way of an unflinching loyalty and devotion to him. It’s the final type of filial piety. The piety of the sons is measured by means of their dedication to their father. Faith additionally surrounds the panorama of The Godfather, including the pious factor to devotion to the filial head. Whereas the one scene in a home of worship correct in the primary movie is the baptism scene, brilliantly set to spotlight the simultaneous hypocrisy and constancy of Michael’s personal cut up religion—his nominal Catholicism and precise filial piety—the truth of filial piety and the intimacy tied to devotion to at least one’s household fills the air all through the movie.

The affiliation of the Corleone household with a kind of neo-pagan Romanism—the place the family father is the family god that buildings all life—can’t be missed by the educated viewer. The household is immersed in Previous World tradition via the aesthetics that encompass them and the bodily actions of every Corleone member of the family. Intimate participation guidelines the household. From Connie’s Wedding ceremony to the household plotting their revenge towards Sollozzo, from Vito’s grooming of Michael to Michael’s elimination of all of the household enemies by the top of the primary movie.

However Michael Corleone’s devotion to his household was not one thing assured when he’s first launched on display. He’s the absent son and brother. He was the one one to serve in the Second World Conflict, retaining him away from the household enterprise in his early life. He’s the one Corleone son not current at the beginning of the marriage and the one one not associated, in a way, to the work of his household.

The tragedy of Michael, and The Godfather is a tragedy with Michael as its lead protagonist, is that he’s torn between the duties and obligations to his household and his need to be legitimatized which quantities to his shedding of his heritage, id, and constancy to household. In speaking to Kay Adams, Michael displays that the methods of his father usually are not his methods. Within the novel, in the well-known dinner scene earlier than visiting the hospital the place his father is recovering, Michael instructs Kay to inform her mother and father about their plan to marry and how he was a distinguished graduate at Dartmouth, acquired the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Coronary heart in the conflict, is tough working, and, most of all, trustworthy. Within the movie this happens on the wedding ceremony dinner, however Michael’s try and current himself as not his household quantities to his rejection of who he’s and entails a rejection of his household.

This establishes Michael’s wounded and schizophrenic coronary heart. On one hand Michael wishes to develop into assimilated into American society. On the opposite Michael wishes to avenge his father which might quantity to his totalizing embrace of his household and heritage. This dynamic inside Michael is mirrored via the 2 ladies of his life and what they every symbolize.

Apollonia is Sicilian. She is submissive. She is Michael’s darkish aspect, his Sicilian aspect, his household’s aspect. She is his soul mate. She represents his homecoming to his household by way of her Sicilian roots that deliver life to Michael’s Sicilian blood which he has hitherto suppressed.

Kay is American. She is headstrong. Furthermore, she is the embodiment of America in the mid-twentieth century. She is white, Protestant, and naïve. Michael’s want to be married to Kay symbolizes his want to be built-in into white, Protestant, and idealistic American society freed from the bonds of household loyalty and being outlined by one’s household. Michael’s want to be built-in into America via Kay would mark his freedom from conventional values, his household identify, and the liberation from the previous.

Moreover, Kay is egalitarian. She intrudes on Michael’s enterprise by asking about his father and his work and continues to take action when Michael turns into head of the household as if she is a member of the family and Michael’s equal. However Michael retains her at a distant, “Don’t ask me about my business Kay.” She stays an outsider regardless of how shut Michael and Kay develop in their relationship.

Apollonia, in her submissive demeaner, accepts Michael’s patriarch headship. Michael’s Sicilian guards even joke that she is going to make an excellent spouse. She might be proud of Michael’s offering and she won’t have the audacity to query him or intrude in his enterprise affairs as a result of she shouldn’t be an egalitarian at coronary heart however a traditionalist who accepts the truth of male headship regardless of the results that include it.

Michael’s marriage to Apollonia (earlier than his marriage to Kay) seals his marriage to himself: His Sicilian, and subsequently household, heritage is sure up with this destiny. Apollonia’s demise foreshadows Michael’s fated future. Via his temporary encounter and marriage to Apollonia Michael’s transformation is full. He can’t escape his blood. He can’t escape who he’s. He fled New York for Sicily, which is the best symbolic second in the movie provided that Michael should depart his household in New York to be built-in to his household by returning to the land of his father. By stepping onto the soil of his father’s start Michael seals his eternal union together with his father and his Sicilian heritage. Virgil can be pleased with the pietistic fatalism sure up in Michael’s character and how he’s destined to hold his father and his household legacy into the courageous new world that beckons.

Thus, Michael’s marriage to Apollonia is the engine that drives the second half of the movie: Michael’s homecoming to his household and his succeeding his father as inheritor of the Corleone enterprise and legacy is about in movement by means of his marriage to her. For that’s what his marriage to Apollonia sealed—his homecoming. In dropping Apollonia Michael glimpses what it will be like for him to lose his father, his household, and his coronary heart. The subsequent time we see Michael on display he’s again in America and being groomed to be the subsequent Don of the household as he reconnects with Kay who nonetheless exudes naivety insofar that she is unable to see the truth that (any) energy corrupts.

Whereas the second act of the movie particulars Michael’s ascent to energy, what’s tied up in his ascendency is his constancy to his father and his loyalty to his deceased brother. The place Michael was in abandoning his household to turn into the respectable and assimilated American, the conclusion of The Godfather exhibits his complete immersion to the Corleone household. The enemies of the Corleone household have to be wiped off the earth, for Vito’s sake and for Sonny’s sake. Michael assumes the place of an excessively devoted deity to his individuals—his household—and should do something and every thing to guard his beloved. Michael blesses those that bless his household and curses those that curse his household.

The position of affection, as devotion, to household captures the dialectic of affection in its totality. Love, as Augustine argued, required heartache and struggling. Love isn’t some summary and charitable phenomenon indifferent from struggling however on the very core of struggling. Love with out grief is not any love in any respect.

It’s the Corleone devotion to household that brings about their grief; it’s a grief rooted in excessive love bordering on an ironic twist of the libido dominandi. Of their love for the household the Corleones search to train absolute management over the household, establishing well-defined boundaries that can’t be crossed and who’s permitted in the inside circle of the household. There’s a notable shift between the primary two movies on this situation. Within the first movie the Corleone internal circle is made up of these with Corleone blood or those that have been a kind of adopted household owing to Vito’s arrival in New York with out his household (Genco, Clemenza, and Tessio). It’s a tight and intimate circle of trusted blood relationships. Within the second movie the Corleone inside circle is made up of males who’re, by blood, outdoors of the household. Michael’s inside circle is just not solely smaller it’s equally not as intimate and private as the unique Corleone circle was from the primary movie. This shift exhibits, nevertheless subtly, the sluggish dissolution of the Corleone household over time.

Furthermore, Michael’s devotion to his household results in his lust for domination on two fronts. First is his want to management each element and motion of those that are his blood kinfolk. He does this out of affection and need for his or her well being, however they find yourself turning into prisoners in Michael’s fort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Second is his lust to dominate his enemies—not merely the “family’s” enemies however his enemies in specific; together with his enemies on the run Tom asks Michael if he must wipe out everybody—Michael responds, “just my enemies.”

The language of Michael’s devotion modifications from the primary movie to the second. Within the first movie he speaks repeatedly of his “family” and his “father” the place the Corleone household is on the middle of his coronary heart. Within the second movie he speaks repeatedly of himself. Michael’s extreme devotion to his household ends with a devotion solely to himself and his want to management every little thing.

In Michael’s lust for energy he finally ends up forsaking love. Love is corrupted and morphed right into a lust for energy mirrored by how his “love” results in his household being prisoners in his Nevada compound. Michael not expresses pure love, not to mention relational love—that distinctive and particular bond felt and embodied solely in people—however can solely categorical a “love” for energy the place his want to like and be beloved is wrapped up in this pursuit of energy. It’s the final tragedy as a result of Michael does love his father and Kay—however this love quickly turns into polluted in his pursuit of energy which destroys his capability for love. In forsaking love for energy Michael has sealed his destiny; Michael turns into an agonized and tormented soul due to this corruption of affection.

On this respect The Godfather movies are the best cinematic portrayals of the Augustinian dilemma and situation. There have been two nice masters of irony in the traditional world. Plato and Augustine. That there’s a relationship between each shouldn’t be coincidental. However the place Plato’s irony was motivated by hatred of the sophists main his satire of them, Augustine’s irony was moved by love main him to take a kind of pity upon these whom he noticed as reflecting what Pierre Manent calls “the noble error” in Augustine’s cultural criticism. It isn’t that Augustine thinks the pagan idolaters and critics of Christianity are intrinsically mistaken in what they assume and what they want. They do want admirable issues. It’s that they don’t have the eyes to see or the ears to listen to correctly and, as such, they’ve develop into corrupt and empty shells of their loftier beliefs which might be out of attain. They embody lives utterly antithetical to what they search which is what makes their situation tragic in Augustine’s eyes, particularly since they’re unaware of their very own depravity—they rationalize their shortcomings to wash themselves of wrongdoing like Pilate.

Augustine’s protection of Christianity towards the trendy, and ignorant, pagan critics in Metropolis of God displays Augustinian irony—tragedy—to the fullest. The Romans are proper to want a kingdom of justice, peace, and prosperity; the Romans are proper to hunt ethical advantage and private character; the Romans are proper to like their fatherland; and the Romans are proper to need to honor their mother and father as the very best piety in life. The Romans are incorrect in considering, as Augustine exhibits with excruciating element, that they ever had achieved something they desired in the previous and they’re blind in believing that the Roman gods can present these good and noble issues they search. Removed from embodying any of the virtuous issues they sought the Romans embodied solely the lust for domination.

Having closed themselves to Christ they’re unable to correctly love all the products worthy of being beloved in the world (as soon as they’re correctly subordinated to the Highest Good that makes all different items potential to take pleasure in first by enjoyment of God). Christianity, Augustine argued, was the true faith of the Roman coronary heart since Christianity, not “Rome,” would offer the justice, peace, prosperity, advantage, character, patriotism, and filial piety that the Roman coronary heart sought to consummate. However the Romans, ignorant as that they had grow to be, and even antagonistic to their traditions besides in moments of calamity, have been too blind to see this actuality which made their predicament so tragic.

And what’s The Godfather, by means of the individual of Michael, however an Augustinian tragedy? He’s launched as a dashing younger struggle hero with the prospects of breaking freed from the illegitimate and felony underworld empire that’s his household. He progresses into a person dedicated to his household and wanting to offer for and shield his household. And there’s nothing intrinsically incorrect with the filial piety. But, Michael’s victory can also be his defeat. He loses every thing he held to him. The place his father was surrounded by his spouse and youngsters Michael misplaced his spouse, his youngsters, his mom, his brother, and even his relationship with Tom is strained by the movie’s conclusion. Vito is all the time seen together with his household; Michael is usually seen aside from his household.

Michael’s fall mirrors that of Adam, however there isn’t any redeemer or second of redemption for him. It was Adam’s devotion to Eve, to the purpose of excluding God, that led him to partake in sin and be forged from the Backyard—maybe most brilliantly reimagined by John Milton. The bare vainness of Adam is on show after consuming of the Tree of Information of Good and Evil when he blames God for having created Eve, thus rupturing his relationship with each God and Eve. He’s bare and ashamed. So too is Michael’s devotion to his father, then to Kay, the crux that transforms him into an immoral monster unable to see the Good, True, and Lovely. It’s his extreme devotion to each that precipitates his downfall from grace. The good-looking, idealistic, and hopeful Michael launched at Connie’s wedding ceremony is reworked into an unholy incarnation of Devil by the top of the second movie.

Via this devotion Michael’s bare vainness is seen for all to see and it ends with him alone and ashamed—particularly when he confesses his sins to Cardinal Lamberto in the third movie. Michael transgressed his personal boundary in killing his brother, and transgressions towards the Corleone household require punishment no matter who dedicated the transgression. So Cardinal Lamberto rightly tells Michael that it’s correct that he suffers for his sins. Via Michael’s struggling we understand he did love Fredo regardless of being unwittingly betrayed and put in hazard by his weak and silly older brother whom he was fast to shun and simply as fast to kill when the chance introduced itself.

Michael emptied his coronary heart to his household and what occurred to him was the emptying of coronary heart—not in sacrificial redemption however the corrupt hollowing Michael’s core. He turned a perverse parody of every little thing he claimed to embody. His devotion to his household is aimed on the finish of energy which suggests he’s incapable of affection. He suffers due to this. Subsequently, we should always lament and pray for Michael as Kay does on the finish of the novel.

Moreover, the defeat of the Corleone household is seen via its breaking up and absorption into the homogenous bland of mainstream American life. On this sense Michael really turns into reliable as the load of progress and self-centered individualism takes over. What was noble from the Previous World that the Corleone household initially embodied is destroyed in its absorption by the New World—it isn’t with out coincidence that the Corleone household has moved into the brand new frontier of the New World: The American West which guarantees prosperity and liberation from the previous methods. Within the remaining little bit of irony in the transformation of the Corleone household the household enterprise dissolves into a company conglomerate dominated by a single man alone in the world. Michael is depressing, haunted, and alone. Michael was, in reality, assimilated into the American lifestyle he so craved at the start of the primary movie.

The Godfather penetrates the guts of the fallen situation and exhibits it for what it truly is. It’s the Augustinian movie par excellence. It’s also a conservative drama in displaying the themes that really matter in life and how we frequently fall in need of the beliefs of household, love, and honor. It additionally exhibits the truth of the fallen situation. Nevertheless it additionally exhibits the restrict of filial piety, the lust for energy, and how straightforward love might be corrupted. Michael suffers however has no Struggling Servant to cleanse him and heal his damaged coronary heart. He dies alone with nobody to like him and nobody to like.

The Imaginative Conservative applies the precept of appreciation to the dialogue of tradition and politics—we strategy dialogue with magnanimity fairly than with mere civility. Will you assist us stay a refreshing oasis in the more and more contentious area of recent discourse? Please contemplate donating now.

Editor’s Word: The featured picture is a nonetheless from The Godfather.

Print Friendly, PDF & EmailPrint Friendly, PDF & Email