Wiseguy | Study Guide

Nicholas Pileggi

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Course Hero. "Wiseguy Study Guide." Course Hero. 23 June 2017. Web. 16 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/>.

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Course Hero. (2017, June 23). Wiseguy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 16, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/

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(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Wiseguy Study Guide." June 23, 2017. Accessed December 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/.


Course Hero, "Wiseguy Study Guide," June 23, 2017, accessed December 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/.

Wiseguy | Chapter 2 | Summary



Hill learns from Johnny Mazolla how to cash counterfeit money and begins to learn about other moneymaking schemes as well. Even though the Varios are awash in money, they enjoy the high of using stolen money to buy things. Hill begins helping them run the card and dice games, keeping an eye out for cops, most of whom are already on the Varios' payroll. Hill makes his first deal when, after beginning to make his own sandwiches to sell at the card games, the sandwich shop where he used to buy them offers to pay him a cut to sell theirs instead. Hill meets Jimmy Burke at the card nights, a high roller who tips everyone exorbitantly. But, Burke is also intimidating and unpredictable, and many of the men are scared of him.

For Hill's 14th birthday, Tuddy and Lenny Vario give him a bricklayer's union card, so he can be put on a building contractor's payroll and have his salary divided up among the Varios. But, one day he comes home from collecting money, and his father beats him because the school sent home a letter informing of Hill's truancy. When Hill tells Tuddy what happened, Tuddy and his men kidnap the family's mailman and instruct him all mail from Hill's school is to be delivered to the pizza parlor.

A competing cabstand opens around the corner, lowering its prices and giving special discounts. Tuddy sends his men to give the owner a talking-to, but the man won't back down. One night Tuddy has Hill accompany him to help light all of the competing cabs on fire after the cabstand closes. Despite his growing list of crimes, Hill is 16 when he finally gets arrested after he and Vario's son Lenny use a stolen credit card to buy tires on an errand for Tuddy. Lenny escapes, but the cops catch Hill. Hill has learned not to talk to the cops from Tuddy and Lenny. The Vario family lawyer shows up and takes care of everything, and Hill is freed. The Varios congratulate him on breaking his "cherry" with his first arrest and take him out for dinner. Meanwhile, Hill decides to sign up for the army, hoping to get his parents off his back. His father is pleased, but when Hill tells Tuddy and Vario, they ask him if he is sure, and tell him they can buy back the papers. Hill turns them down.


Hill begins to learn a great deal about wiseguy life from the Varios as they come to trust him more and consider him a part of their family. His youth means he is virtually invincible to police, and his trustworthiness is rare for a young boy. This combination quickly earns him loyalty, respect, and greater responsibility. The crimes he is witness to and participant in begin to involve great risks, but the Varios have immersed him so slowly Hill's role comes to him with ease and confidence. Hill even shows his budding entrepreneurial skills for making money by scheming with his sandwich business, highlighting his "street smarts" that will begin to aid him in bigger and bigger schemes. The way the Varios have absorbed him into their dealings under the guise of family resembles the way many young people end up joining gangs—by providing a sense of family, respect, and autonomy many feel are absent in their own homes. The Varios seem to use to their own advantage this hunger in Hill and eagerness to please.

Hill is also being increasingly immersed into the sometimes violent and erratic behaviors of the older wiseguys, such as Jimmy Burke. In many ways Hill's exposure will prepare him for dealing calmly with volatile personalities, and the establishment of his relationship with Jimmy Burke will serve him for a long time, since Hill has an observant, rare insight into his behaviors, which other people seem to miss.

The Varios' kidnapping of the mailman also heightens the motif of violence Hill seems to have become immersed in and used to, and so from an impressionable age he begins to see violence can solve problems. If the men he respects resort to it, in Hill's eyes it becomes admirable. Tuddy's use of Hill to help set the competing cabs on fire highlights how embedded Hill has become with the Varios and how major crimes have become routine. The fact the Varios throw him a party when he is eventually arrested shows how cavalierly they view such things. Yet, Hill seems to have a window of hesitation before fully joining the wiseguy world, witnessed by his signing up for the army. It seems like one final stab at the "normal" path through life he knows will please his father.

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