Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 1 Chapter 5 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 1, Chapter 5 | Summary



At the beginning of Book 1, Chapter 5 of The Godfather, Sonny Corleone, Tom Hagen, Salvatore Tessio, Peter Clemenza, and Michael Corleone meet in the office of Don Vito Corleone. Hagen explains how he convinced Virgil Sollozzo to let him go by saying that Sonny wants to be head of the Corleone family and so he wouldn't mind if the Don died. Hagen apologizes to Sonny about this, but Sonny indicates it doesn't matter. Sonny and Hagen agree that Fredo should be left out of these plans because he is too shaken up by the attack on the Don. Also, Hagen thinks Sonny is overreacting because he wants to kill too many people. Sollozzo is the key person to kill, not the Tattaglias. Sonny says he wants Clemenza to kill Paulie Gatto as soon as possible. Hagen advises Sonny, telling him to negotiate with Sollozzo until the Don gets well. Then the Don will decide what to do. If the Don dies, then Sonny should definitely make a deal with Sollozzo. Sonny gets angry, saying, "That's easy for you to say, it's not your father they killed." Hagen claims he's giving his professional opinion; personally, he wants to kill Sollozzo and the other bastards. Sonny simmers down and agrees to sit tight. Hagen suggests that Michael shouldn't get too involved in these matters, and Sonny agrees. However, Michael is embarrassed by this.


In Book 1, Chapter 5, Puzo continues to develop the theme of business versus personal through the discussion between Sonny and Hagen. Hagen accuses Sonny of letting his personal feelings of revenge get in the way of his decision making. For Hagen, using cool reason is of paramount importance because this method will avoid a long, destructive war between the New York families. However, what Hagen and the others, except perhaps for Michael, don't realize is that every business decision they make is based on personal feelings. The main difference is between immediate gratification and delayed gratification. Sonny wants immediate gratification by wiping out Sollozzo and the Tattaglias. Hagen is willing to accept delayed gratification by agreeing to a deal with Sollozzo and later, when the time is right, getting revenge. If Hagen was making a purely rational decision, without any desire for revenge, he would most likely agree to a business deal and avoid any killing. The Corleones would be making money from the narcotics deal. Killing Sollozzo would only risk angering the Tattaglias and the other families. Let bygones be bygones. However, the personal desire for revenge keeps the cycle of violence going.

Also, Puzo shows how Hagen is trying to enhance loyalty and limit treachery. Hagen wants the loyalty of the other New York families and so wants to make the Sollozzo deal. He fears angering these families because doing so will lead to treachery. Not only would these families attack the Corleones, but also members of the Corleone family would probably become traitors. Already, Paulie has been convinced to betray the Corleones. If the Corleones are overwhelmed by the other families, others will follow Paulie's example, causing the Corleone family to collapse.

Puzo shows the theme of the patriarchal family by showing its effect on Michael. When Hagen suggests that Michael should not get involved in the family business, Michael feels ashamed. Michael knows Clemenza and Tessio are feeling contempt for him because, according to their standards, he is not acting in a manly way. In the patriarchal family of the Corleones, the men should be dominant and show their strength through a willingness to fight and kill for the family's honor. Michael's shame shows his desire to live up to this code of masculinity.

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