Literature Study GuidesThe GodfatherBook 8 Chapter 31 Summary

The Godfather | Study Guide

Mario Puzo

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The Godfather | Book 8, Chapter 31 | Summary



Book 8, Chapter 31 of The Godfather begins in the Corleones' mall in Long Beach as a limousine takes Connie, her two children, and Mama Corleone to the airport for a vacation in Las Vegas. Connie is upset that Michael Corleone made her husband stay behind for a few days for business reasons. Another limousine takes Kay and her children to visit her parents in New Hampshire. Carlo stays by the phone in his house and waits until Michael is ready to see him. In Michael's house, Michael worries that he hasn't planned well enough. Tom Hagen assures him that his plan is really good.

In a pizza parlor in upstate New York, a man shoots and kills Fabrizzio. In a hotel, Rocco Lampone shoots and kills Phillip Tattaglia while he is in bed with a young woman. Dressed as a cop, Albert Neri shoots and kills Emilio Barzini near Rockefeller Center. Back at the mall, Salvatore Tessio waits to take Michael to the meeting with Barzini. Hagen tells Tessio that Michael will come later. Then three bodyguards appear, and Hagen says he can't come either. Tessio realizes he is about to be killed. He says to Hagen, "Tell Mike it was business, I always liked him." Tessio then asks if he could be given a break for old times' sake, but Hagen refuses. The bodyguards lead Tessio into a waiting car. Michael, Hagen, and Rocco Lampone meet with Carlo. Michael tells Carlo he needs to answer for Sonny. Michael accuses Carlo of intentionally beating Connie to lure Sonny into a trap. Carlo nervously denies this, but Michael calms him down, saying he doesn't plan to make his sister a widow. All Michael wants to know is who set up the deal with Carlo: Barzini or Tattaglia. Carlo says Barzini. Michael tells Carlo to get in a car, which will take him to the airport. In the car, Clemenza places a wire around Carlos's throat and strangles him to death.

Within 24 hours, Michael has achieved a complete victory, restoring the Corleones as the most powerful Mafia family in New York. Hearing about the death of Carlo, Connie takes a plane back to New York. In Michael's house, she accuses her brother of being a cold-hearted killer. Two guards lead a hysterical Connie away. Shaken, Kay asks Michael if what Connie said is true. Michael says it's not true. However, when she sees Clemenza, Neri, and Lampone greet Michael with respect and awe, she knows her husband lied.


In Book 8, Chapter 31, Puzo conveys the theme of the patriarchal family through Michael's attack on the Barzini and Tattaglia families. Michael uses the same strategy against these families that was used against the Corleones. Because of the dominant power of the leader in the patriarchal system, Sollozzo knew if he killed the Don then the rest of the Corleone family would have to sue for peace. Michael accomplishes this tactic against the leaders of the Barzini and Tattaglia families. After Michael chops off the heads of the two-headed serpent (the Barzini-Tattaglia alliance), then the rest of the animal flounders. The caporegimes of this alliance immediately go over to Michael's side.

Through this attack, Michael takes care of both business and personal concerns. He gets his revenge against the Barzinis and Tattaglias and gets more power by taking over their operations. The killing of Carlo was also motivated by Michael's business and personal affairs. Michael definitely wants to get revenge on Carlo for helping to set up the killing of Sonny. Being a thorough business man, Michael knows he could never trust Carlo again with any family business matters. Carlo could be persuaded by a rival family to betray the Corleones again. Even though this possibility is probably remote, Michael feels he cannot take the chance and has Carlo killed. However, the killing of Fabrizzio seems to be motivated purely by personal revenge. Michael receives no business advantage by murdering the owner of a small pizza parlor. This killing indicates that the most primary motive of Michael and other Mafiosos is vengeance fueled by hatred. Michael definitely wants to get more power and influence, but vengeance seems to be even a stronger reason to commit murder. When the Don first entered a life of crime, he was motivated by his hatred of Fanucci. Indeed, most of the murders committed by the Corleones and other Mafia families involved the desire for vengeance. The dominant male in the patriarchal system must protect his honor at all costs and cannot in any way appear to be weak. In fact, the Barzini and Tattaglia families viewed the Don as being weak for not at least trying to get his revenge for the murder of Sonny.

In previous chapters, Puzo shows how the Corleones try to maintain a façade of normalcy. Michael goes out of his way to convince Connie that he harbors no resentment toward Carlo. For years, Michael, Kay, Carlo, and Connie seem to get along like one big happy family. However, being raised in the Corleone family, Connie is sensitive to the treachery that lies beneath the façade of normalcy and loyalty. So, in Chapter 31, Connie becomes worried when Michael asks Carlo to stay behind and join Connie later in Las Vegas. Her anxiety is justified. Michael removes the mask of normalcy, revealing his hatred for Carlo. He has Carlo killed, and then tries put the mask back on. But Connie will not be deceived any longer as she accuses her brother of being a cold-blooded murderer.

Throughout this chapter, Puzo uses the symbol of doors to show a transition from normalcy to the criminal world dominated by death. A man orders a slice of pizza like any other customer, opens a door, walks into the pizza parlor's kitchen, and murders the man making the pizza. As usual, Philip Tattaglia has sex with a young woman in a hotel. Then Lampone bursts through a door and kills Tattaglia. After the killing of Carlo, Michael and Kay go about their lives in a normal way. Kay has no clue that Michael killed Carlo until Connie bursts through the door of his house and calls him a murderer. After Connie leaves, Michael tries to prop up the façade of normalcy by telling Kay he had nothing to do with killing Carlo. But this façade soon collapses when Kay sees Clemenza, Neri, and Lampone come in through a doorway and pay homage to Michael.

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