Conflicts In The Godfather Essay, Research Paper
Conflict in life may be unpleasant but literature readers find it exciting. Characters in conflict stand out clearly as to what they truly are. In Mario Puzo’s,
“The Godfather”, the core conflict is revealed almost immediately through “The Shooting of Don Corleone”. The Don presents this conflict with his refusal to participate in the drug business, the conflict of man vs. society. This decision will cause a snowball effect of future conflicts. The first sparks off a war within the five major crime families, which will last for years costing many lives. It will develop into a conflict between father and son; Sonny will reflect the conflict of divergent ideas against his father Vito because he is for the drug business. Michael’s conflict is the classic man vs. himself. It is the conflict that lies within a person’s mind, when the conscience is at war with desire.
The conflict unfolds directly through a decision made by the Godfather, Don Corleone. Corleone and Hagen meet with the Tattaglia crime family to discuss future criminal enterprises specifically the drug business, which is the wave of the future. The day before the meeting, Hagen and Sonny speak well of the upcoming deal, yet Don Corleone shows his displeasure for the drug business: But it could be dangerous. Some people could wind up in jail for twenty years. I d say that if we kept out of the operations end, just stick to protection and financing, it might be a good idea. (421). For Corleone, whose prime specialty is gambling, the introduction of heroin into their “family” business is threatening. So, as an old-school Mafia leader, Don Corleone refuses to join because it may spoil or jeopardize his smooth relations between the “families” and his powerful political contacts. He is content with the usual business of gambling, prostitution and protection rackets. He responds:
I must say no to you but I must give you my reasons. The profits in your business are huge but so are the risks. Your operation, if I were part of it, could damage my other interests. It s true I have many, many friends in politics, but they would not be so friendly if my business were narcotics instead of gambling. They think gambling is something like liquor, a harmless vice, and they think narcotics is a dirty business. No, don t protest. I m telling you their thoughts, not mine All the members of my family have lived well in the last ten years, without danger, without harm. I can t endanger them or their livelihoods out of greed. (422-423).
The reader knows this has incited a huge conflict to the immediate players since all the families need Corleone s financing, political influence and legal protection. It even goes against his lawyer, Hagen’s advice and Sonny’s opinion. Unfortunately, the Don’s response stirs up Sonny’s conflicting views and he makes a big tactical blunder during this meeting, by blurting out his thoughts to Sollozzo: The Tattaglia family guarantees the return of our investment without any percentage from us? (423). He reveals his disagreement with his father’s decision and his enthusiasm for getting into the drug business. His father politely reprimands sonny in the rival family’s presence. When alone, Corleone tells his hotheaded impulsive son: Santino, never let anyone outside the family know what you are thinking. Never let them know what you have under your fingernails. (423). Though only implied, this error tips off Sollozzo to the idea that Sonny would join the drug business and split up the Corleone family. He knows that Don Corleone should be eliminated for full backing. Sollozzo s eyes flickered again but this time with satisfaction. He had discovered a chink in the Don s fortress. (423). The reader catches this unwritten direction and can assume the cagey Don knows there will be trouble. Don Vito’s refusal to do business with Sollozzo could trigger a bloody gang war filled with murder and betrayal.
VITO CORLEONE SHOT. ALLEGED RACKET CHIEF CRITICALLY WOUNDED. OPERATED ON UNDER HEAVY POLICE GUARD. BLOODY MOB WAR FEARED. (425). These are the headlines that grab Michael Corleone s attention and slowly draw him into the spider web of this family business. The characters of the Don, Sonny and Michael have all been affected and changed by their individual conflicts. The Don’s refusal to cooperate in the drug business has left him riddled with bullets, clinging to life and his family facing future bloodshed and betrayals. Sonny’s lack of caution and his volatile personality have placed the family in an uncertain position from which Sollozzo can assume a deal will be made. Michael’s life will completely change course from the all American war hero to the cold-blooded assassin.
The reader knows that this is a story with the themes of violence, power, greed and crime, which have been supported by each character’s response to his conflict. The Don’s refusal to join the drug business was a decision based on “family” responsibility. Sonny’s interest in drugs was fueled by greed and Michael’s will be driven by revenge. It was a series of conflicts all building up to a devastating, definitive conclusion that will show us a tragic view of life. The reader can predict that Michael Corleone who claimed to be different from the rest of the family would become more ruthless than Don Vito ever was.