Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 7 Chapter 29 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 7, Chapter 29 | Summary

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Summary

Book 7, Chapter 29 of The Godfather focuses on Michael Corleone who is prepared for the big move he plans for his family business. On a Sunday morning in the summer, Don Vito Corleone takes care of his garden, which has become a favorite pastime. The Don has a severe heart attack. Michael and other men attend to him. The Don looks at his son, whispers "life is so beautiful," and then dies. The Corleones have a large funeral for the Don with heads of the other four Mafia families in New York and the Tessio and Clemenza families attending. Johnny Fontaine also attends, even though doing so will give him bad publicity. Before the funeral, Michael informs Salvatore Tessio and Peter Clemenza that the mall in Long Beach will be sold for a significant profit. The Corleone family is dissolving all its assets in the New York area and setting up business in Las Vegas. At the cemetery, Michael reflects on his father's last words and hopes he will have the Don's self-confidence.

In the Don's house, Michael meets with Tom Hagen, Clemenza, Tessio, Carlo Rizzi, and Rocco Lampone. Clemenza and Tessio want Michael to attack the Barzini-Tattaglia alliance, but Michael wants to sit tight and let them make the first move. After this meeting, Michael tells Hagen that Emilio Barzini will come at him through someone close that they won't expect. The next morning, Michael gets a call from Tessio to set up a meeting with Barzini. As a result, Michael and Hagen know that Tessio has turned traitor. Kay asks Michael to be godfather to Connie's and Carlo's baby. Michael agrees and arranges for the baptism to take place in the mall. At the baptism, Michael is very friendly with Carlo, which convinces Connie that the two men have really become friends.

Analysis

In Book 7, Chapter 29, Puzo shows the theme of the patriarchal family through the death of the Don and the official ascendency of Michael as head of the Corleone family. It is important to note that the Don died surrounded by men. Because of this, the Don was "spared the sight of his women's tears." This type of death is entirely appropriate for the Don. Immersed in the patriarchal system, the Don focused on how to handle and manipulate men. He viewed women as being weak and thus having less importance than men. For the Don, a man should never show what he's feeling as a woman does.

The Don's last words show the confidence he has about playing his role in the patriarchal system. He believed without doubt that being the dominating, ruthless head of his family is what he must do as a man. Anything less would be a dishonor. As a result, the Don died peacefully without any fear about going to Hell. In contrast, in Chapter 1, his friend Genco Abbandando on his deathbed was racked with fear about suffering the torments of Hell. Genco must have had more doubts about his life of crime than the Don. Indeed, the Don tried to comfort Genco by assuring him that his family's prayers will save him from damnation. The Don knows his wife prays for him every day. So he completely trusts the patriarchal system supported by the Church and believes he will rest in peace. Michael hopes he will have the confidence of the Don. He will follow his father's example and care for his children in the criminal world partly created by the Don. However, Michael might have some lingering doubts about his role. Because of this, he wants his children to have legitimate jobs in society. He doesn't want them to live the type of life he lives.

Puzo shows how the death of the Don plays into the theme of business versus personal. For Michael, the Don's death could be seen as a business advantage. Because of this death, other Mafia families will see the Corleones as being weaker than ever. In fact, Clemenza and Tessio believe that Michael should strike the Barzinis and the Tattaglias before they wipe out the Corleones. Such a belief in the weakness of the Corleones will make Michael's surprise attack even more effective. In addition, Michael understands how the Mafia uses the personal for business matters. As a result, he knows Barzini will use a good friend of the Corleones to set a trap. This friend turns out to be Tessio. Tessio turning traitor ties in with the theme of loyalty versus treachery. In the Mafia, power and greed often outweigh loyalty. Tessio believes betraying the Corleones is the correct decision because doing this will give him more power. If he doesn't make this move, Tessio believes he will probably soon be killed.

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