Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 1 Chapter 11 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 1, Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

In Book 1, Chapter 11 of The Godfather, readers learn that Captain Mark McCluskey is a tough, fair cop who keeps his beat clean from troublemakers. Also, McCluskey plays the system, which involves getting a payoff from bookies to prevent him from putting them in jail. McCluskey feels he deserves this illegal money because he doesn't get paid enough by the police department for the type of work he has to do. In college, one of McCluskey's sons became good friends with Bruno Tattaglia, which led to McCluskey associating with the Tattaglia family and protecting them when needed. He felt no qualms about pulling the guards away from Don Vito Corleone's room because he figured having a powerful gangster killed would be a good thing. McCluskey never felt that he was personally in any danger because gangsters avoided killing cops as much as possible.

Tom Hagen has made arrangements for Michael Corleone to leave the country after he kills Virgil Sollozzo and McCluskey. Sonny Corleone has arranged for a car to be waiting for Michael after he commits these murders. At the Don's house in Long Island, Sonny, Hagen, Peter Clemenza, Salvatore Tessio, and Michael wait to hear from Sollozzo. During a phone call, Sonny learns Sollozzo and McCluskey will pick up Michael in front of Jack Dempsey's bar. Later, Sonny learns that the meeting will be at a restaurant called the Luna Azure. Sonny tells Clemenza to have a gun planted in the restaurant's washroom for Michael to get. Hagen tells Michael he'll probably have to be out of the country for at least a year, maybe longer.

As arranged, Sollozzo and McCluskey pick up Michael. The driver of the car takes a circuitous route to the restaurant to avoid being followed. At Luna Azure, Sollozzo, McCluskey, and Michael sit at a table and order dinner. Sollozzo proposes a truce between the Tattaglias, the other families, and the Corleones. When the Don is fully recovered, he can continue negotiations with the Tattaglias concerning the narcotics racket. Michael wants a guarantee that his father will not be bothered again, but Sollozzo claims he can't offer such a guarantee. Sollozzo says he's the hunted one who has missed his chance. Michael says he has to go to the bathroom. Sollozzo gets suspicious, but McCluskey says, "I frisked him ... he's clean." In the bathroom, Michael finds the planted gun behind a water cabinet. He puts the gun in his waistband and buttons his jacket over it. Michael rejoins Sollozzo and McCluskey at the table. As Sollozzo talks, Michael gathers up his nerve. Suddenly he points his gun at Sollozzo's head and fires. He then fires twice at McCluskey, hitting him in the throat and his skull. McCluskey falls dead to the floor. Sollozzo's lifeless body sits slumped in his chair. Michael drops the gun, leaves the restaurant, and gets in the waiting car, which Tessio is driving. Tessio drives Michael to the docks, where he catches an Italian freighter to Sicily. The day after the murder of Sollozzo and McCluskey, the police crackdown on all organized crime activities. Soon two men who work for the Corleones are killed. The war between the Corleones and the other four Mafia families has begun.

Analysis

In Book 1, Chapter 11, Puzo explores the theme of business versus personal mainly through the character of Michael. As suspected in previous chapters, Michael is fully aware of how business and personal mix in Mafia affairs and tells as much to Hagen. Michael says, "Tom, don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business." How aware other gangsters are of this mixture remains unclear. Although Sonny's temper strongly influences his business activities, he sees this temper as a fault. So he might think his father and Hagen are really able to separate business and personal. Hagen might not agree with Michael about the combination of business and personal. However, one thing he knows is that Michael should never talk about such things because it's too revealing. He should always keep his feelings and true thoughts a secret. So far, Michael has shown a knack for doing this. By suppressing his emotions, Michael turns his anger into a cold hatred, which motivates him to commit murder.

Puzo reveals how the patriarchal family system plays into the Mafia families constantly fighting each other. In the patriarchal family, the male head is the supreme leader who cannot allow himself to be dominated by anyone. Because of this, Sollozzo cannot accept the Don's refusal to support the narcotics deal. Also, Sollozzo knows the Don plays by the same patriarchal rules. Because of this the Don will not change his mind about supporting narcotics. So Sollozzo feels he must kill the Don to achieve his goal of establishing a narcotics racket in the United States. Michael knows this and, as a result, realizes he must kill Sollozzo. During the meeting at Luna Azure, Sollozzo claims to want to set up negotiations with the Don, but this is just a deception. Sollozzo and the Don, therefore, are two dominant males of the Mafia who, according to the patriarchal rules, must fight each other with one emerging as the victor. Such a dynamic happens constantly in the Mafia, which leads to bloodshed.

Sollozzo's narrow patriarchal views also prove to be his weakness. He sees Michael as a weak male in the Corleone family and so underrates him, leading to his death. In contrast, Michael is able to see more out of the box of patriarchy. After all, he was independent of the family system for many years. This ability gives Michael a creativity and cunning that he uses to his advantage. For example, Michael is aware that Sollozzo is underrating him, which makes it much easier for him to kill Sollozzo.

Through Captain McCluskey, Puzo shows the interrelationship between the theme of power and greed and the theme of justice. Lured by the desire for more money, McCluskey takes payoffs from gangsters, which allows them to continue their criminal activities. McCluskey becomes puffed up by a sense of his own power. He feels he dominates his area of New York. He sees himself as a local potentate whom no one will dare to attack because he's a policeman. McCluskey justifies his illegal grafting by the rationalization that the police don't get paid enough. He has risked his life keeping his area safe and deserves more compensation because of this. Because of the injustice of society, McCluskey feels he must take matters into his own hands. In later chapters, Puzo shows how similar reasoning brought about the Mafia in Sicily.

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