Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 1 Chapter 4 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 1, Chapter 4 | Summary



As Book 1, Chapter 4 of The Godfather opens, Michael Corleone enters his father's house and notices Peter Clemenza, Paulie Gatto, and a bunch of men who are not Clemenza's people. Michael realizes Clemenza and Paulie are suspected of being traitors. Tom Hagen's wife, Theresa, worries about her husband, who is still being held by Virgil Sollozzo. Sonny Corleone tries to comfort Theresa. Michael joins Sonny's meeting with Salvatore Tessio. Like Peter Clemenza, Tessio is a caporegime or captain in the family business. Michael notices that Sonny and Tessio have made out a list of names of people to be killed. Sollozzo, Phillip Tattaglia, and John Tattaglia are the top names on the list. Sonny wants Michael to leave the meeting, but Michael says he wants to help out. Sonny lets him stay, saying he could answer the phone.

Sonny asks Michael if the traitor is Clemenza or Paulie. After thinking it over, Michael believes Paulie most likely betrayed the Don, but he answers, "Neither one of them." Sonny says Paulie betrayed the Don and tells Tessio he will be working with Clemenza. After Tessio leaves, Michael wonders if there is going to be an all-out war. Sonny says there will be, but he wants to wait until Hagen returns. Sonny fears Sollozzo might kill Hagen because the Don is alive. Because of this, Sollozzo knows the Corleones will not make a narcotics deal, so he no longer needs Hagen to make a deal. Sonny claims he would have started a war even if his father died. When Michael points out that the Don would not have done this, Sonny gets defensive, saying he knows he doesn't measure up to his father. But Sonny feels confident because the Corleones have Luca Brasi. Hagen arrives and is met by his sobbing wife. He then joins Sonny and Michael in a family meeting.


In Book 1, Chapter 4, Puzo emphasizes the strong ties of the patriarchal family by showing its effect on Michael. Michael is an intelligent, independent person who does not want to be involved in the family's business. Even so, Michael is gradually being sucked into the web of the family's crime activities through his sense of family responsibilty. In Chapter 2, Michael feels "sick with guilt" because he was eating dinner with Kay when his father was close to death. In Chapter 4, Michael continues to feel responsible about helping out his father. He insists on staying in the meeting with Sonny and Tessio, which involves making out a list of people to be killed. In fact, Michael gets angry at Sonny for wanting him to leave. Michael yells, "He's my father, I'm not supposed to help him? ... stop treating me like ... kid brother." This outburst suggests that Michael feels the pressure to live up to what is expected of a man in the Corleones' patriarchal system. He doesn't want to be the wimpy brother, but instead the strong, fierce man that the Corleones respect. In the patriarchal system, such a man is needed to take significant action in the world. The Corleone family has even had a strong effect on Tom Hagen. Michael notices this when Hagen brusquely removes himself from his sobbing wife and joins a meeting with Sonny. Hagen has learned that displaying emotions is a sign of weakness for the Corleones. A man is expected to firmly and coldly get down to business.

Puzo conveys the theme of business versus personal through the conflict within Michael. As he considers who betrayed his father, Michael coldly analyzes Clemenza and Paulie and also feels affection for each of them. When Michael was a child, Clemenza brought him gifts. Paulie and Michael had been friends in grammar school. Michael doesn't want either of them to be the traitor. But, his cold analytical side says the traitor is Paulie, which is correct. So, from early on, Michael is fully aware of how business concerns and personal concerns are intertwined in the Don's world. He notices this mixture again with Sonny. Michael observes Sonny, a warm-hearted brother, making chilling decisions on killing people. Seeing this, Michael feels an aversion about getting involved in this world of revenge. Even so, Michael feels proud about his family's effect on Hagen, making him disregard displays of emotions. Also, Michael seems critical of Sonny for letting the desire for personal vengeance overwhelm his business sense. Sonny would start an all-out war even if it meant destroying the Corleone family in the process. So, Michael sees the ability to control emotions and allow the desire for vengeance to be governed by calculating business decisions as a virtue.

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