Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 2 Chapter 12 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 2, Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

Book 2, Chapter 12 of The Godfather focuses on singer and actor Johnny Fontaine. After having dinner with a young woman named Sharon Moore at his house, Johnny expects to have sex with her. He usually has sex with the many women he dates. However, Sharon surprises Johnny by turning him down. Apparently, Sharon was once infatuated with Johnny when his singing voice was good, but now that his voice has gone downhill, she isn't turned on by him anymore. Johnny is hurt by this. After Sharon leaves, Johnny visits his first wife, Virginia. He tells her how washed up he feels because of his singing problems. Then Johnny gets a call from Tom Hagen who wants to come out to Los Angeles and meet with him. Hagen feels Don Vito Corleone can help Johnny out. Johnny agrees to the meeting. Virginia lets Johnny sleep overnight at her house, but they don't have sex.

During the meeting, Hagen tells Johnny that the Don wants to make sure he wins the Academy Award for the role he played in the Jack Woltz movie. Woltz is trying to prevent Johnny from getting the award. The Don wants Johnny to become a big player in Hollywood. The Don will finance three to five movies, which Johnny will produce. Johnny wonders what favors he will have to do in return for the Don's generosity. Hagen assures Johnny that the Don will not expect him to do anything foolish that will harm his publicity. In addition, the Don believes in Johnny and expects to earn money from his investment in the movies. Johnny asks if the Don will meddle in the productions of the movies, but Hagen says the Don will be hands-off. Johnny accepts the offer. After Hagen leaves, Johnny thinks about how he will become a powerful person in the movie business.

Back at Virginia's house, Johnny tells her about Hagen backing him in a movie package. Then Johnny gets to work planning on how to build his movie empire. Johnny knows it would please the Don if he brought an old boyhood friend, Nino Valenti, into the movie business. Nino works as a truck driver and a part-time singer. Johnny calls Nino and gives him an offer. Amazed, Nino accepts.

Analysis

In Book 2, Chapter 12, Puzo shows the theme of business versus personal through the relationship between the Don and Johnny. As Michael suggested in the previous chapter, the Don knows that business and personal concerns intertwine in his business. So far this combination has been seen through gangsters using their personal desire for revenge to motivate their business dealings, which often involve killing people. However, this chapter shows how affection can also influence Mafia business. The Don truly has affection for Johnny and so wants him to win the Academy Award and to launch a successful movie production business. In addition, the Don wants these movies to be profitable, thereby making him money. The Don also realizes Johnny will be obligated to return his favor with other favors. This obligation proves helpful later when the Corleones set up business in Las Vegas. By combining the personal and business, the Don helps out his godson and becomes more influential.

Johnny accepts the Don's offer of help because of power and greed. With the Don's financial support, Johnny knows he will be able to produce successful movies and thereby obtain "the most coveted kind of power." Soon he eagerly begins to plan his movie business by making carefully chosen calls to a writer, a director, and a cameraman.

Puzo shows the influence of the patriarchal family on Johnny. In this type of family, the author shows two types of men. First, there are men like the Don who are monogamous, staying faithful to their wives. Such men see women as fulfilling domestic duties with no real power in the world. Second are men like Johnny who sleep with many women, viewing them as providers of sexual pleasure and not much more. Both types of men have sexist attitudes toward women because they significantly limit the role of women and view them as secondary creatures to be used by men. Because Johnny sees women more like objects, he has no concern about how he might hurt them emotionally. The narrator states, "He had grown a thick skin about the hurts he gave women." Apparently, many of the women Johnny has known resent him because of his selfish, calloused attitude. When something bad happens to Johnny, he notices a "fleeting look of satisfaction" on their faces.

In addition, Puzo uses the symbols of human beauty and human ugliness with Johnny's relationships with women. Johnny loves the physical beauty of women and feels helpless in resisting their charms. The narrator states, "He loved going out with a demure sweet-faced virginal-looking girl." Johnny tries to submerge himself in this physical beauty. However, this bounty of beauty cannot hide Johnny's ugliness in his sexist attitude toward women.

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