What ‘The Godfather’ teaches us about life

by Sonny Bunch on August 1, 2012

I caught the last 20 minutes or so of The Godfather on AMC last night in between Olympic events. It is, like the rest of the film, perfect.

You’ll remember that Michael—having assumed control of the Corleone family and in need of consolidating his power before heading to Las Vegas—orchestrates a series of killings that are spliced into the baptism of his sister’s son, a son Michael is about to make fatherless for the father’s betrayal of Sonny Corelone.

Let’s leave aside the bravura acting, the confident editing, the stunning score. Instead, let’s ask what this teaches us about life.

It teaches us that sometimes, in order to protect your people, you have to get your hands dirty. That sometimes you destroy the village not to save it, but because the village deserves it. And to serve as a warning to other villages to watch their step. That there are consequences for perfidy and a code that must be fulfilled. That you have an obligation to fulfill, even.

We might feel bad about these actions—they might even cost us our souls. Our families might hate us if they found out the truth. But sometimes you have to protect your family even if they’ll despise you—or claim to despise you—for doing so.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Klug August 1, 2012 at 9:53 am

“the baptism of his daughter’s son”

You mean his sister’s son, of course.


Sonny Bunch August 1, 2012 at 9:54 am

Of course. SLOPPY. Fixed. Shamed.


Klug August 1, 2012 at 9:54 am

Have you ever read the novel? The last chapter is very interesting, regarding these actions; Puzo makes your explanation much more explicit.


Sonny Bunch August 1, 2012 at 10:32 am

You know, I haven’t. I read the opening paragraphs a few years back and was kinda like “What *is* this?” and put it down. Maybe a decade ago. I might check it out again at some point…


Klug August 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm

It’s kinda smutty and weird in parts (I’m looking at you, Lucy and Jules), but it was pretty instructive. And besides, it’ll take you like 3 hours to read — it’s short and goes quick.


Michael Gilson August 2, 2012 at 11:53 am

You remember a few years back when the left was comparing George W Bush to Fredo and wondering why the rest of the Bush family didn’t take W ‘fishing’? It occurred to me recently that it was the left that was really like Fredo: resentful of the leader, sure they should have been leader and therefore sympathetic to enemies and willing to aid them in small ways that end up leading to large injuries.


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