Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 4 Chapter 18 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 4, Chapter 18 | Summary



In Book 4, Chapter 18 of The Godfather, readers learn more about the obligations that come with favors. The undertaker Amerigo Bonasera eats dinner with his wife before going to his funeral parlor. He thinks about his daughter living in Boston. Through plastic surgery she had her beauty restored but inside she has become a frightened animal. Bonasera receives a phone call from Tom Hagen, who tells the undertaker that he owes Don Vito Corleone a service. Bonasera remembers with gratitude the service the Don did for him, arranging the beating of the two men who beat his daughter. Bonasera says he will do anything for his Don. Hagen replies that the Don will meet him in one hour at Bonasera's funeral parlor.

In the funeral parlor's office, Bonasera waits for the Don. He worries that the Don might ask him to hide a body of someone the Corleones killed, making him an accessory to a murder. If he did this, other Mafia families might try to kill him. However, Bonasera reassures himself that the Don will figure out a way to keep him safe. Clemenza arrives followed by the Don and two men carrying a corpse on a stretcher. The men place the stretcher on a table. The Don wants Bonasera to use his skills to make the corpse presentable to the dead person's mother. The Don then pulls aside the blanket covering the corpse, revealing the bullet-riddled body of Sonny Corleone. Bonasera gasps with horror.


In Book 4, Chapter 18, Puzo develops the theme of loyalty versus treachery from the viewpoint of a person who owes the Don a favor, Amerigo Bonasera. Bonasera's absolute loyalty to the Don is dominated by terror. Bonasera knows the Don will beat him up or kill him or members of his family if he doesn't perform the service requested by the Don. As a result, when Bonasera agrees to do the service, he does so with a cry of fright. Bonasera fears the service he performs will make him an accessory to murder, which will put him in jail or get him killed by rival gangs. The author, therefore, shows how the Don uses intimidation and fear to control people. This approach is the key to the Don's power. He does a favor for a person, knowing the person must do a favor in return or suffer severe consequences. The iconic The Godfather cover image of a hand controlling puppet strings comes to mind. Bonasera has become a puppet totally under the control of the puppet master, the Don.

Puzo also uses the symbols of human beauty and human ugliness. The beauty of Bonasera's daughter has been restored, but the abuse she suffered leaves an ugly scar on her soul. In previous chapters, the author conveys the physical attractiveness of Sonny. However, in this chapter, his once handsome face has become deformed with bullet wounds with "the left eye drowned in blood." With both of these cases, violence changes beauty into ugliness.

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