Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 1 Chapter 8 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 1, Chapter 8 | Summary



In Book 1, Chapter 8 of The Godfather, after the shooting of Don Vito Corleone, members of the Corleone family deal with the crisis in various ways. Michael Corleone answers the phone; Tom Hagen tries to find a mediator to arrange a meeting with Virgil Sollozzo; Salvatore Tessio attempts to track down Luca Brasi; and Mama Corleone and Connie visit the Don in the hospital. Fredo Corleone remains under sedation, making him the only Corleone other than the Don who is not active. Michael receives a call from Kay Adams, who wants to help him in some way. They arrange a date; Michael will visit Kay in New York that night.

Sonny, Hagen, Clemenza, Tessio, and Michael have a meeting in the Don's office. Clemenza lets the others know he killed Paulie. Hagen has had difficulty getting in touch with Sollozzo, who might be trying to get the other New York Mafia families behind him. These families might support Sollozzo to avoid a full-scale war with the Corleones and to get rich from Sollozzo's narcotics racket. Agitated, Sonny says the families better not mess with him in a fight. Hagen tries to calm down Sonny, telling him to view the situation as being business, not personal. Sonny and Hagen wonder what's happened to Brasi. Clemenza cannot believe that Brasi betrayed the Don. Tessio, though, believes anyone "can turn traitor." Sonny emphasizes that Sollozzo planned the shooting of the Don very carefully. The Corleones are lucky that the Don is not dead. Michael ventures his opinion that Sollozzo has some "ace up his sleeve." Sonny figures Sollozzo has either convinced Brasi to betray the Don or he has already made a deal with the other families. Tessio assures Sonny that he has men guarding the Don at the hospital. Sonny wonders if Sollozzo will attempt to snatch Michael and use him as a hostage, but Hagen nixes this idea, saying Sollozzo wouldn't bother Michael because he's not in the family business. Then, Clemenza brings in a dead fish wrapped in Brasi's bulletproof vest, which is a sign that Brasi is "sleeping in the bottom of the ocean."


In Book 1, Chapter 8, Puzo places the theme of business versus personal on center stage. As shown in previous chapters, the Corleone family and most likely other members of the Mafia constantly mix business with personal, despite their insistence about separating the two. In this chapter, the author explores how Sonny, Hagen, Clemenza, Tessio, and Michael deal with these two elements, each in their own way. For Sonny, the personal is out in the open. He wants to take vengeance on Sollozzo by killing him and is willing to fight the other New York families to accomplish this, even if doing so is bad business. Clemenza also overtly allows the personal to sway his business thinking, but not to the extreme of Sonny. Because of his personal feelings, Clemenza can't imagine that Brasi would betray the Don. Hagen and Tessio have similar approaches. They both value the use of reason and place it above emotional considerations. Hagen deludes himself into believing that the business and personal can truly be kept separate in Mafia transactions. Hagen tells Sonny, "Even the shooting of your father was business, not personal. You should know that ... now." Tessio remains ambiguous about whether he believes business and personal can be kept completely separate. Michael's approach is the most similar to the Don's. Michael never reveals his real business, even to his family members. Such a secretive attitude implies that Michael realizes the influence of personal emotions on family business. Because of this, he does not completely trust anyone and keeps his emotions guarded. Michael does not even want to be vulnerable enough to admit he's going to visit Kay.

Also, Puzo deals with the theme of the patriarchal family by describing the various roles in the Corleone family. When dealing with the shooting of the Don, the men, except for Fredo, who is sedated, take active roles in the family business. Although Carlo Rizzi does not get directly involved in the fallout from the Don's shooting, he still works in the family's bookmaking business. Therefore, as in most patriarchal families, the men are active and handle business affairs. These men must be strong and dominant. In fact, Fredo is considered to be a poor candidate for the family business because he is not strong enough. The narrator says, "He was too retiring a person, did not have enough force."

In contrast, Mama Corleone and Connie are involved in soothing and nurturing the sick, namely the Don in the hospital. Such an activity is an extension of child-rearing duties. In the patriarchal family, women are excluded from any business and instead are confined to domestic chores. Because raising children and caring for the sick usually involve soft, nurturing emotions, the Corleone men view women as being weak. Yet, the women are the most hands-on members of the family. They delegate less and do more. They are less removed, both as the planners and as the executors of the plans. And, in this particular case, they may be in the most direct danger, particularly when the guards are not on the job at the door of the Don.

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