Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 1 Chapter 10 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 1, Chapter 10 | Summary



Book 1, Chapter 10 of The Godfather emphasizes how Michael Corleone protects his father. At the hospital, Michael runs down to the entrance in an effort to save his father from his enemies. When Michael stands outside the hospital, Enzo, the baker's helper, approaches him. Enzo has come to visit Don Vito Corleone, who arranged for him to stay in America. Michael tells Enzo to leave because there might be trouble. But Enzo says he'll stay because of what the Don has done for him. Soon a car approaches the hospital, slows down, and then speeds away. Enzo's hands shake from nervousness, but Michael's hands are steady.

Before long, two policemen frisk Michael as a huge, police captain approaches him. Michael asks where are the detectives that are supposed to be protecting his father. Also, he refuses to leave until guards have been placed around his father's room. The captain gets angry and tells a policeman to arrest Michael. In response, Michael asks the captain how much he was paid by Virgil Sollozzo to remove the detectives. Furious, the captain punches Michael in the jaw. Then, Peter Clemenza's lawyer, accompanied by other men, arrives. Annoyed, the captain lets these men protect the Don. The next morning, Michael wakes up in his bed with his jaw wired together. Tom Hagen tells Michael that the captain who was bribed is named McCluskey. He is known for being a crooked cop. Also, the Corleones struck back and killed Bruno Tattaglia. Sollozzo wants to set up a meeting with the Corleones.

In an office in the Corleone's house on Long Beach, Michael meets with Hagen, Sonny Corleone, Clemenza, and Salvatore Tessio. Sonny is now determined to kill Sollozzo for making another attempt to kill the Don. Sollozzo wants to meet with Michael and make a proposition. The Tattaglias agree that the death of Bruno pays for their attempt to kill the Don. Hagen tries to convince Sonny to negotiate with Sollozzo. If Sonny tries to kill Sollozzo, then the Corleones will have to fight all the other New York Mafia families. Also, Sollozzo is guarded by Captain McCluskey, making him almost invulnerable. If the Corleones kill McCluskey, then the whole police force will crack down on them. Sonny agrees to wait on killing Sollozzo. However, Michael claims they have to kill Sollozzo because of his determination to kill the Don. If the Corleones kill McCluskey in the process, so be it. The Corleones could plant a story in newspapers about McCluskey being crooked, which might take off some of the heat from the police. Michael explains that he could meet with Sollozzo and McCluskey and kill them both. Sonny bursts out laughing and teases Michael for wanting to get revenge on McCluskey for breaking his jaw. Michael gets angry at Sonny for laughing at him. Michael claims it's not personal, but business. He is the only person who can get close enough to Sollozzo to kill him. The other men at the meeting all agree. Sonny gives orders on how to set up the hit on Sollozzo and McCluskey.


In Book 1, Chapter 10, Puzo develops the theme of business versus personal by contrasting the approaches of Sonny and Michael. Both of them come to the same conclusion: Sollozzo has to be killed as soon as possible. However, the methods they use to come to this conclusion are totally different. Because of his temper, Sonny feels compelled to kill Sollozzo to get back at him for trying to kill the Don. Sonny's decision, therefore, is based solely on emotion. However, Michael uses reason to come to his decision. Sollozzo knows the only way he can win against the Corleones is to kill the Don. Because of this, Sollozzo must be killed soon. Also, Michael is the only person who can get close enough to Sollozzo to kill him. If Clemenza, Tessio, or someone else could do the job, Michael would be more than willing to let them. Even so, Michael's motivation is based on an intense, cold hatred. This hatred comes from people trying to harm his family, especially his father. In the previous chapter, as Michael tries to protect his father, he feels an intense anger at his father's enemies. However, Michael, like his father, has the ability to suppress his hatred enough to let his reason function efficiently.

Michael's willingness to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey is strongly influenced by the patriarchal family. By volunteering to commit this murder and planning how to do it, Michael shows himself as a strong, forceful male, the type of man admired in the patriarchal system. Because of this, Michael gets furious at Sonny for teasing him. Sonny treats Michael as a little kid who doesn't know what he is talking about. Sonny tells Michael, "This is no hero business, kid, you don't shoot people from a mile away." Michael accuses Sonny of thinking he is not man enough to do the job. Michael's anger causes Sonny to back down. Michael asserts himself as the dominant male in his family. In an ironic twist, Sollozzo sets up a meeting with Michael because he views him as a sissy. Because Sollozzo believes Michael does not fit into the macho, patriarchal system, he thinks Michael is safe. This situation is an example of dramatic irony because the reader is aware that Michael has accepted his role as a dominant male in his family, but Sollozzo is not aware of this.

Puzo conveys the theme of loyalty versus treachery and the theme of power and greed mainly through the crooked cop, Captain McCluskey. The police are supposed to protect people from being killed instead of arranging for them to be killed. McCluskey's removing the Don's guards could be seen as a type of treachery against the public trust. Michael was probably aware that some police are crooked. Even so, Michael's face-to-face confrontation with this corruption in the form of McCluskey probably had a strong effect on him. This interaction most likely confirms for Michael that everyone, not just the Mafia, are corrupted by power and greed. Indeed, McCluskey is known for his willingness to be bribed by the highest bidder. Because of this widespread corruption, Michael could easily rationalize his involvement with his family's criminal activities. Everyone is greedy, especially men who take significant actions in the world. His family just does not have the façade of being legitimate.

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