Essay, Research Paper
The Evolution of Don Michael Corleone
The evolution of Michael Corleone stands out in the motion picture, The Godfather. In the beginning of the film, Michael openly states his absence in the family s illegitimate business affairs. The end of the film reveals Michael has undergone various changes and became the head of the family, completely contradicting the impression he d given the audience at the start of the picture.
Michael, the soft spoken, youngest son of Don Vito Corleone chose at an early age not to be involved in the family s Mafia businesses. He went to college and joined the Marine Corp. At the age of 21, he returned after an honorable discharge from an injury he had received during World War II. Still avoiding the family affairs, he introduced his family to his girlfriend, Kay Adams, a non-Italian pure American girl, while at the wedding reception of his sister Constanza (Connie).
While conversing with Kay at the reception, he explained a story about his father and guardsmen. His father wanted a man to sign off a famous singer, Johnny Fontane, from the binds of a strict contract, in exchange for a large sum of money. The man refused. Kay asked how Michael s father got the man to release Johnny from the contract. Michael explained that his father made him an offer he couldn t refuse. His father s guard held a gun to the man s head and Don Corleone explained that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract. Kay gasped. That s my family, Kay, not me.
The changes that Michael experienced throughout the film are extraordinary. The moment the audience noticed that Michael did indeed change is during the scenes when his father is recuperating from an attempted assassination. Michael saw that there were no guards posted at the door of his father s hospital door and moved him to perhaps save him from another attempt, since the first one had been unsuccessful. Michael leaned to his father and said, I ll be here to take care of you. I m with you now, I m with you.
Michael then became involved in discussions with the leaders of his family; his brother Santino (Sonny), his adopted brother Tom Hagen, Tessio and Clemenza (Vito s bodyguards). Michael listened to the conversations, then offered the most wise and rational suggestion of all the ones offered; let him kill the man or men that tried to murder his father. Everyone in the room gasped and immediately disagreed, but Michael insisted on it as the safest option. Michael had no family to care for, and no prior involvement with the family s affairs, so no one would ever suspect such a drastic action from one so quiet. After the murder, Michael would be wisked away into hiding in Sicily to prevent convictions and serious repercussions.
Who Michael killed stood higly significant in the story. The city s police captain directly involved himself in the attempt on Michael s father and this murder held high risk to the family s business and reputation. When the viewers witness Michael being taught how to hold, shoot and drop the gun after its fired, and finally killing the police captain, McClusky and his boss, Bruno Tattaglia, the audience realizes there is no turning back for Michael to his past life. He is now an active participating member of the Corleone family s organized crime reign.
Five years later, when Michael finally returned to America, his status in the family obviously increased. After about a year and a half of being back in America, he goes to see Kay Adams.
The transformation is even visible in his clothing. While dressed in a suit and long trench coat, he asks Kay to marry him. She accepts, it seems, reluctantly. He explained that he works for his father and the business will all be legitimate within five years. Kay does not look convinced.
Vito Corleone, the recovering head of the family told his men that Michael stood as acting head of the family and deserved the same respect they would give to him. Michael immediately began making changes. He, in a way, fired Tom Hagen as the family consigliere. He traveled to Las Vegas and tried to convince a business partner, Moe Green, to sell his half of the casino that he and the Corleone s share. Moe refuses and later killed, by order of Michael. He becomes more like his father as the picture continues.
By the end of the film, Michael has used the phrase, I m going to make him an offer he can t refuse. The very phrase told the audience Michael s status in the family now without question. Michael Corleone has become the Godfather of the family.
Vito Corleone collapsed and died in the house garden while playing with his grandson, Anthony (Michael s son), and Michael became the Don, not just the fill in for his father. During the Christening of Connie s second child, Michael orders the deaths of five of his enemies. Moe Green, Barzini, Tattaglia, and finally Michael has complete control.
The last scene of the film, the most powerful scene of the entire movie is the last few frames of the picture. Michael completely changed from the beginning of the film and even Vito s most trusted men have conformed to that adjustment. The last scene is Michael, sitting on his desk with his body guards around him. Peter Clemenza addressed him as Don Michael and kissed his hand, the ultimate sign of submission and respect. His sitting position would remind an audience member of one with power and grace, one who held within their power the right to other people s lives and deaths, arrogantly arched with one hand on his hip the other outstretched to receive proper respects from his trusted men.
The movie ends leaving the audience with a sense of completion, yet desire for five more hours of this story. The movie, almost centers itself around the transformation Michael undergoes through the years. It must be understood that Michael did not willingly submit to his family s affairs. After the attempt on his father s life and his older brother Sonny s hot temper finally getting himself killed, Michael has no choice but to become involved. When the audience gets the feeling the Corleone family is declining, Michael is the answer to their prayers. Don Michael Corleone will prevail.
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