Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 5 Chapter 21 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 5, Chapter 21 | Summary



In Book 5, Chapter 21 of The Godfather, readers learn how Michael Corleone will be able to return safely to the United States. Don Vito Corleone and his family have been trying to figure out a way for Michael to come back to the United States without being charged for the murders of Virgil Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey. However, they cannot come up with a satisfactory plan. The answer to their problem comes through the Bocchicchio family. Felix Bocchicchio, a young man of 25, earned his law degree while keeping clear of the underworld activities of his family. After graduating, Felix looked forward to earning a good living for his wife and children. But he became involved in a fraud scheme, which he thought was legal. The authorities discovered the scheme. The lawyer friend who contacted Felix about the scheme denied any knowledge of it. The two principals of fraud accused Felix of organizing the crime. They received a suspended sentence, while Felix was sent to three years in person. When he was released, Felix shot and killed the lawyer friend and the two principals. Felix was sentenced to death. The Bocchicchio family went to the Don for help. Although the Don could not reverse Felix's sentence, he agreed to give a generous pension to Felix's wife and children if Felix confessed to the murders of Sollozzo and McCluskey. The Bocchicchio family and Felix agreed. Within four months, Felix was executed for five murders, enabling Michael to return safely to America.


In Book 5, Chapter 21, Puzo focuses on the theme of justice. Felix Bocchicchio is a man who suffers a severe injustice from the established society in America. This injustice takes two forms. First, he is unjustly accused by the two principals of the fraud that he organized the crime. Second, because of the prejudice against Italian Americans, which is supported by the crime activities of Felix's family, the courts willingly believe that Felix is the main culprit in the fraud and give him a severe sentence. Because of Felix's pride and honor, he feels he must get justice through his own means and, after being released, kills those responsible for sending him to prison. This pattern is repeated constantly with Italian Americans, especially Sicilians, who get involved in crime. Many Sicilian men have a deep pride and honor that they must uphold at all cost. It is their most valued possession. So when faced with the injustice against Italian Americans, they resort to crime to uphold their honor. It is important to note that not all Sicilian men do this. Many endure injustice and the shame that comes with it instead of breaking the law. However, others are first drawn into a life of crime because of injustice.

Puzo shows the theme of business versus personal through the Don's masterful combination of the two. The Don wants Michael to be able to return safely to America for both personal and business reasons. The Don loves Michael and wants him to be safe, and he plans on Michael succeeding him as Don. He also knows the Bocchicchio clan want to help Felix's family as much as possible. In a stroke of genius, he uses the personal need of the Bocchicchios to achieve his own personal and business needs. The Don agrees to take care of Felix's family, including sending his children to college, if Felix takes the blame for the murders of Sollozzo and McCluskey. Felix and the Bocchicchios agree, thereby allowing Michael to return to America free of any threat of criminal prosecution.

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