Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 1 Chapter 6 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 1, Chapter 6 | Summary



Book 1, Chapter 6 of The Godfather opens with Peter Clemenza thinking about his upcoming assignment of killing Paulie Gatto. Clemenza is not troubled about committing this murder. However, he is concerned about who to put in Paulie's place after he is dead. The man must be safe and experienced. After thinking of possibilities, Clemenza settles on Rocco Lampone, who has shown he can make sound judgments. Clemenza plans to personally take care of Paulie because of his betrayal to the Corleones. Also, Clemenza is worried about not arousing Paulie's suspicions. Clemenza decides to make up a story about finding an apartment where the Corleones can secretly live in case of an all-out war with the other Mafia families. The family's caporegimes such as Clemenza and their assistants are often given such a task, which they refer to as "going to the mattresses." In these secret apartments, mattresses are left for people to sleep on. Lampone arrives early, and Clemenza explains his plan to him.

When Paulie arrives, Clemenza tells them they have to find an apartment for the Corleones to hole up in. Paulie drives the car; Clemenza sits next to him; and Lampone sits in the back seat, acting nonchalant. Paul drives into New York, where Clemenza checks out a couple of apartments. After Clemenza eats lunch, he tells Paulie that there has been a change of plans, and they have to head back to Long Beach. On the way, Clemenza says he has to relieve himself and tells Paulie to pull the car over in a remote area. When Clemenza takes a leak in the bushes, Lampone shoots Paulie in the head, killing him. Lampone throws away the gun. He and Clemenza get in another car left nearby and head back to Clemenza's home.


In Book 1, Chapter 6, Puzo emphasizes the relationship between the theme of loyalty and deceit and the theme of power and greed. Paulie has been a loyal worker for the Corleone family for many years. He came from the same neighborhood as the Corleones and has been given tests of loyalty, which he has passed with flying colors. However, despite all this, Paulie betrayed the Don by setting up an attempt on his life. Such a betrayal seems brutal and unthinkable; Paulie was after all childhood friends with Michael. Paulie, though, has been corrupted by power and greed, the same motivation that caused the Tattaglia family to put a hit on the Don. Clemenza reflects that if Paulie had been making more money he might have resisted the offer of the Tattaglias to betray the Don. So, the lure of more cash convinced Paulie to commit an act of treachery. No wonder Clemenza thinks carefully about the person to replace Paulie. This man "had to be safe." Puzo, though, seems to be implying that in the world of the Corleones, there is no such thing as safe. Because power and greed is such a strong motivation, every man has his price. However, Clemenza doesn't seem to completely understand that no one can be trusted. When Clemenza settles on Lampone as Paulie's replacement, he seems confident. But if a longtime friend like Paulie could betray the Don, so too could Lampone.

Puzo also shows how the theme of business versus personal applies to Clemenza. He matter-of-factly goes about the business of murdering Paulie. The job seems to be all in a day's work. However, Puzo states that Clemenza personally wants to take part in Paulie's killing. The narrator states, "Paulie had not only betrayed the family, he had betrayed his padrone, Peter Clemenza." So, like Sonny wanting to kill Sollozzo, Clemenza is influenced by personal vengeance. In fact, this hatred has become so ingrained in Clemenza that he seems perfectly calm while committing the murder.

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