Wiseguy | Study Guide

Nicholas Pileggi

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Course Hero. "Wiseguy Study Guide." Course Hero. 23 June 2017. Web. 15 Jan. 2019. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/>.

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Course Hero. (2017, June 23). Wiseguy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 15, 2019, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/

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Course Hero. "Wiseguy Study Guide." June 23, 2017. Accessed January 15, 2019. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/.


Course Hero, "Wiseguy Study Guide," June 23, 2017, accessed January 15, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wiseguy/.

Wiseguy | Epilogue | Summary



The Federal Witness Protection Program gets its money's worth out of Hill—his testifying gets the convictions of Paul Mazzei, Rick Kuhn, Tony Perla, and Rocco Perla on drug and point-shaving charges. He also helps nab Rich Perry, Bill Arico, and Philip Basile. He eventually takes the stand against Paul Vario and Jimmy Burke, but is never able to help prosecutors with the Lufthansa heist, since everyone else is dead. Hill's confrontations testifying against his old friends don't seem to rattle him, but rather he sees them as bargaining chips that bought him his freedom. Out of his entire crew Hill is the only one that survives unscathed. As for his new life, he runs a successful business and lives in a nice house. He is also still on the Strike Force payroll as a government employee for his informant work, though he is accompanied to New York on work trips by armed marshals to make sure he isn't murdered.


The epilogue reveals just how valuable Hill is to the Feds, and how his connections and powers of observation are his biggest asset both as a criminal and as a witness. Pileggi aims to highlight Hill's lack of remorse also carries over from one aspect to the other. As a wiseguy, he demonstrated no remorse for the victims of his crimes, and as a witness he demonstrates no remorse for testifying against the men he once considered his best friends and family. Pileggi highlights after Burke's conviction Hill was "almost gleeful," because it meant he had won this particular showdown. His reaction shows how embedded is the wiseguy belief if you aren't winning, you are prey to be taken advantage of—even if you are a friend. Just as he was able to remain relatively unscathed on the outside, so Hill is also the only one of his friends who doesn't end up in prison for his crimes. Pileggi takes care to point out "his survival depended upon his capacity for betrayal," and even though giving up his lifestyle was hard, giving up his friend was not. This dissonance is hard to grasp, but it reveals survival and winning, not kinship or family, are always the ultimate goal for wiseguys. In this light the theme of betrayal versus loyalty comes to a close, highlighting betrayal wins out in the end in this case. Power is something these men have battled for, and ultimately it is Hill's betrayal that gives him the most power to leverage, at least when it comes to staying out of prison. Although Hill offers little in the way of deeper reflection on this topic, Pileggi hints ultimately, money and survival won out over family and loyalty for Henry. When stripped of security and camaraderie, the men are ruthless toward one another, plotting murder and sabotage in order to come out ahead. Here Pileggi presents the lesson of what one is willing to give up in order to have either a life of risk or a life of stability, and in the end Henry seems disappointed he must give up his life of risk.

In many ways Wiseguy holds a defining place of cultural significance as the first real, nonfictional, inside glimpse to life within the Mafia, and as such it sparked fervor in the media and entertainment for more stories on the subject. The immigrant experience is common to much of American culture, and many groups can understand the community and insularity of a Mafia family. Wanting to make a better life is intrinsic to the American Dream, but Wiseguy serves as a cautionary tale that ultimately, the law will win out in the end if the actions one takes to acquire a better life are illegal.

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