Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 6 Chapter 23 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 6, Chapter 23 | Summary



Book 6, Chapter 23 of The Godfather takes place in Sicily where Michael Corleone is looked after by Don Tommasino, a man in his late fifties who is a Mafia leader in Sicily. Tommasino works as an overseer for a wealthy man. Michael lives in the walled estate of Dr. Taza, a friend of Tommasino. During his first months in Sicily, Michael learns about the Sicilian culture that his father came from. He realizes the Mafia developed as a type of protection for peasants being abused by powerful landowners and church officials. These peasants began to view society as their enemy and looked to the Mafia to redress any wrongs. The peasants refused to tell the police information about any murders or other crimes because the police were the pawns of the powerful. Although the Mafia provided a type of justice for the peasants, this organization soon became an instrument of the rich and powerful. The Mafia placed its own burdens on common people by taxing all business transactions.

Michael's jaw has healed improperly, making one side of his face deformed. His jaw could be corrected by surgery, but he refuses to have the operation done. Michael often takes long walks in the beautiful countryside, but is always accompanied by two bodyguards, Calo and Fabrizzio. During one of these treks, Michael comes across a beautiful young woman. They look at each other and then she shyly runs away. Michael and his bodyguards come to a town, where they are greeted by a café owner. Michael mentions the pretty young woman and the café owner gets insulted—the woman is his daughter. Michael assures the owner that his intentions are honorable. He wants to court the man's daughter and, after a time if she is agreeable, he will marry her. The young woman's name is Apollonia. Michael begins the courting ritual, coming to the owner's house and spending time with Apollonia under the close watch of her parents. Apollonia is fascinated by Michael, who seems like a man of substance. She agrees to marry him. After having a traditional wedding, Michael brings his wife to Dr. Taza's villa. They consummate their marriage and develop a passionate sexual chemistry.

Tommasino warns Michael that his marriage has made his whereabouts more known to his father's enemies. For protection, Michael and Apollonia stay at the villa. An elderly female servant named Filomena tells Michael about her life in America. Once Luca Brasi told her to deliver his infant and then throw it in a furnace. Brasi threatened to kill Filomena if she didn't perform the act. After Filomena killed the baby, Brasi murdered the mother and was arrested for the crime. Terrified, Filomena went to Don Vito Corleone for help. Because the case against Brasi was weak, the Don got him released. Brasi became devoted to the Don, and Filomena and her husband went back to Sicily. Soon after hearing this story, Michael learns his brother Sonny Corleone has been killed.


In Book 6, Chapter 23, Puzo explores the interrelationship of the theme of justice and the theme of power and greed. The author conveys a familiar pattern, which he has shown in previous chapters. People who are oppressed by the powerful turn to illegal means to get justice. However, the organization that provides the justice is itself corrupted by power and greed. In this case, Puzo delves into the genesis of this pattern in the Mafia. Abused by powerful landowners, the people of Sicily turn to the Mafia for help. However, the Robin Hood Mafia becomes corrupt by becoming an instrument of the powerful. Soon, Mafia groups begin fighting each other for more power, and the entire island is consumed by violence and death. Plagued by corruption, the whole system can be seen as turning on itself. A system originally intended to protect the people ends up being a tool of destruction that murders the people. Sicily becomes a "land of ghosts" with most of its men fleeing the island to earn a better living, escape being murdered, or both.

Although Michael has become a part of this deadly system, he can see the bigger picture and knows the Mafia is a type of disease, spreading death. He realizes if his father's organization continues to grow, it will become "so cancerous that it would destroy the whole country [America]." Even so, Michael is trapped within this organization because of family ties. This conflict between Michael's awareness of the Mafia's evil and being caught in this evil can be seen as his tragedy. The split in Michael's personality is reflected in the symbol of human beauty and the symbol of human ugliness. After being punched by McCluskey, Michael's jaw fails to heal properly, making one side of his face deformed while the other side remains attractive. These two sides of Michael's face emphasize the evil and goodness in his soul.

Through its attempt to achieve justice, the Mafia has created a separate world that parallels the established world of society. In Chapter 20, the Don refers to this world during his speech at the Mafia peace conference. The Don says, "Who is to say we should obey ... laws they make for their own interest and ... our hurt." The Don sees himself and his fellow gangsters as creating their own world with its laws, codes of conduct, pensions, vacation plans, promotions, and traditions. The Don sees this world as being superior to society, which he views as hypocritical and corrupt. However, the Don and probably most other gangsters have a blind spot that Michael does not have. The Don's secret world has become just as power hungry, treacherous, and unjust as society, if not more so. Although the Don is fully aware of the hatred and desire for vengeance in the Mafia, he still maintains that his world is better than society. Michael does not seem to share this view. Because of this, Michael later tells Kay that he wants his business to eventually become legitimate.

In addition, Chapter 23 conveys the theme of the patriarchal family through Michael's courtship and marriage to Apollinia. Even though Michael has never been in Sicily before, he adapts to this country's courtship and marriage customs with amazing ease. The reason is that this patriarchal system has basically been transposed to America. As a result, Michael has grown up in a family system that is essentially the same as the one found in Sicily. This phenomenon can be attributed to men wanting to hang on to their power. Puzo shows that men such as the Don take great pride in being the absolute leader of their families and want to make sure this system stays the same.

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