Wiseguy | Study Guide

Nicholas Pileggi

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Course Hero. "Wiseguy Study Guide." Course Hero. 23 June 2017. Web. 17 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 17, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/

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Course Hero. "Wiseguy Study Guide." June 23, 2017. Accessed December 17, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/.


Course Hero, "Wiseguy Study Guide," June 23, 2017, accessed December 17, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/.

Wiseguy | Chapter 6 | Summary



It takes Karen a while to figure out what line of work Hill is really in. In America wiseguys and the Mafia aren't yet well known outside of their world. Karen finds herself constantly making excuses to herself and her mother about his staying out late. As she begins getting to know the wives of Hill's friends, she's shocked to discover many of them are waiting for their husbands to get out of jail. Yet, the women never talk about what their husbands did to land themselves in jail; rather, they commiserate what they do is what everyone else does. Karen notes all of the stories they tell are tales of woe with soap opera qualities. Although Karen worries, Hill soothes her fears, and she feels excited about all the money he makes. Karen notes none of Hill's friends look like big shots, but rather like working guys. She finds she adapts easily to this new environment and feels proud Hill is a hustler who goes out and risks himself to make money.

Hill is arrested after making a run to Baltimore to pick up cigarettes to sell, pulled over by the police for speeding on the way back. Karen is mortified by and ashamed of her husband's arrest, although their friends don't seem to care. The other wives tell her not to worry; they are sure Hill will be taken care of. Karen finds out she is pregnant and continues to deal with her mother arguing Hill is bad news. One night Hill doesn't come home until 6:30 a.m., and Karen's mother confronts him, causing Hill to leave. Hill realizes he and Karen need to move out of her mother's house. Karen realizes only later the men take their girlfriends out on Friday nights and they take their wives out on Saturday nights.


Pileggi highlights an important fact that helps illuminate Karen's naïveté about Hill's real line of work—the majority of America has not been exposed to stories about the Mafia at this point in history. No award-winning movies or exposing articles have been written about it yet, leaving its world insular and fiercely guarded. Although Karen feels surprise and shock at the things she learns from the fellow wives of wiseguys, she seems to adapt and immerse herself in much the same manner Hill did as a boy. There doesn't seem to come a point for her in which she decides "enough is enough," or a certain crime is "too much." She seems to enjoy the flashy world they inhabit and the luxuries it affords her, and is fine with not asking too many questions. Pileggi, through his own telling along with Karen's own words, paints her as incredibly smart but also incredibly gullible when it serves her. Even though new to this world, she quickly adopts the mentality of other wiseguy wives, seeing outsiders and the police as suspicious and a threat to their well-being.

Hill's arrest, Karen's first big shock, forces her to face the reality of how Hill provides for them. This dissonance requires her to reconcile her shame over his arrest with the facts of the world to which she now belongs; she is now one of those "wiseguy wives" she only observed before from the outside. The couple's increasing conflict with Karen's parents amplifies their tension, along with the fact of Karen's pregnancy. The stakes have been raised in their lives in a short period of time, and their mutual volatility seems a harbinger of future instability.

Getting Karen's own words in hindsight illuminates how much she has learned in over 20 years as Hill's wife and how much she had to adapt to his lifestyle of crime and extramarital affairs. Although Pileggi never says it, he presents Karen's stories in a way that cause the reader to wonder why she did stay with Hill despite his arrests and infidelity. Though she is portrayed as a strong, tough, and smart woman, the reader still wonders what was in it for her to stay through the turmoil. By Karen's own admission, she loves the excitement, risk, and money that come with their lifestyle. In many ways Karen's choices are portrayed as having to choose between her husband and new life or her family and her old life, and it's clear she yearns for the flash and glamour Hill brings her despite its uncertainty.

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