Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 1 Chapter 2 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 1, Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Book 1, Chapter 2 of The Godfather opens with a shocking scene. Jack Woltz wakes up to find the severed head of his prize horse Khartoum at the foot of his bed. Shocked, Woltz realizes the Godfather, Don Vito Corleone, is sending him a message, namely that he could kill Woltz whenever he chooses. A few hours later, Woltz arranges for Johnny Fontaine to get the movie role he desires. The Don, Tom Hagen, and Sonny Corleone have a talk about an upcoming meeting with Virgil Sollozzo. Sollozzo heads a narcotics racket, which involves growing poppies in Turkey and sending the goods to Sicily, where they are processed into heroin. Sollozzo wants to set up a narcotics business in America and is backed by the Tattaglia family. Hagen fears that Sollozo and the Tattglias will also get the backing of the other three families in the New York area, leaving the Corleone family isolated and vulnerable if they don't support this racket. During the meeting, Sollozo will probably ask the Don for his support, and Hagen thinks the Don should accept.

Sollozo meets with the Don, Hagen, and Sonny and, as expected, asks the Don for financing and legal protection for his planned narcotics business. The Don has connections with politicians and judges, which would enable him to provide such protection. However, the Don fears if he does get involved in narcotics, his political connections would not like it and may take away their friendship. Sonny speaks out of turn, thus revealing to Sollozo that he is in favor of the narcotics deal. The Don turns down Sollozo's offer. After Sollozo leaves, the Don chastises Sonny for letting someone outside the family know what he's thinking.

Three months later, during Christmastime, Sollozo forces Hagen to get in a car. After seeing a movie together, Michael and Kay learn from a newspaper that the Don has been shot, but he is still alive. Michael calls Sonny, who tells him to come to the Don's house as soon as possible. Also, Luca Brasi seems to have gone missing. Earlier that day, the Don was shot five times by two men while leaving the office of his olive oil business. Fredo saw the incident but was too stunned to help. The Don's bodyguard, Paulie Gatto, was home sick. After getting the bad news about his father, Sonny gets a call probably from Sollozo saying that he has Hagen and will release him to convey a proposition. Because Paulie called in sick for the third time in a month, Sonny suspects Paulie and his boss Peter Clemenza have betrayed the Don. The Don's house is part of a complex with seven other houses, all owned by the Don. This mall is now "an impregnable fortress." Sonny tells his mother about the Don being shot, orders Tessio to place bodyguards at the hospital where the Don is staying, and checks the calls received by Paulie and Clemenza.

Analysis

Book 1, Chapter 2 of The Godfather introduces the theme of business versus personal. Because of The Godfather novel and films, the saying "It's business not personal" has become famous. This quote implies that Mafia members commit murders purely for business reasons, not personal reasons. However in the novel, the Don's family and other Mafia families constantly mix business and personal. For example, to get Woltz to give Johnny a part in a movie, Hagen finds out the movie mogul's main personal attachment, namely his horse Khartoum. In the previous chapter, Woltz talks to the horse in a loving way, saying softy "Khartoum, Khartoum." Hagen tells the Don about Woltz's feelings for the horse, and the Don realizes this attachment is the mogul's weak point. Soon Woltz finds the severed head of Khartoum in his bed. Later, Sonny speaks out of turn to Sollozzo, thereby exposing his personal feelings about the Turk's proposed deal. For the Don, Sonny has committed a grave mistake because he should never let anyone outside the family know his personal preferences. However, despite the Don's insistence on keeping business and personal separate, he is unable to prevent the two from mixing. Sonny has exposed a chink in the family's armor, which contributes to the attempted killing of the Don.

The precariousness of the Don's criminal work shows through the themes of loyalty versus treachery and power and greed. In the previous chapter, the Don seems to be doing a service by rectifying unjust situations such as punishing the attackers of Bonasera's daughter. However, the motivations for the criminals in organized crime have nothing to do with obtaining justice, but rather with using power for greedy ends. For instance, the Don's decline of Sollozzo's offer could be seen as a reasonable and just business decision. The Don has good reasons for refusing the offer. A business person should be free to make such decisions without fear of recrimination. However, because Sollozzo and the Tattaglia family he represents are obsessed with greed, specifically getting rich from selling heroin, the Don's refusal is totally unacceptable. As a result, Sollozzo uses violence to get what he wants. Such motivations make the Don's world very precarious. The loyalty of friends he has tried to build up could vanish in an instant if a so-called friend wants something and the Don gets in his way. Although the Don is fully aware of this precariousness, he suffers from it by being shot. Sonny also knows about the treachery of his world. After the shooting of the Don, Sonny immediately suspects friends of the family of being disloyal, namely Paulie and Clemenza.

In addition, Puzo explores the theme of the patriarchal family through Sollozzo's attack on the Corleones. Sollozzo of course knows that the Corleones (and the other Mafia families) adhere to a strict patriarchal structure. The Don is the supreme head of his family. He makes all of the important decisions about his clan, and others carry out his orders. Therefore, the best way to attack such a patriarchy is by killing the leader. Doing this is like chopping off the head of a serpent, leaving the rest of the animal useless. With the Don gone, the Corleone family will flounder because it totally relies on the Don to control it. Also, after the shooting of the Don, only men are involved in taking action, such as Sonny, Tessio, and Michael. The Corleone women, including Sonny's wife and mother, just passively accept the situation. Such a sexist division of roles is typical in a patriarchal system. Sexism is stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against women based on their sex.

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