“The Godfather”, a name that stands for authority, is the title of the fictional novel and feature films written by Mario Puzo and directed by Frank Coppola. Don Vito Corleone, also known as the Godfather, is the patriarch of the Corleone crime family. The Godfather is a wise intelligent man who’s authoritative code rests on respect, loyalty and fear. He is loyal to his crime family and he demands the same loyalty and respect from them. There are three characters throughout the first movie and novel whose interactions display the authority of the Godfather and the importance placed on loyalty respect and fear. Amerigo Bonasera, Nazorine Pitelli and Luca Brasi all had encounters with the Godfather and through interactions we see how others regard the Godfather and to what extent he is given authority; through respect, fear and loyalty.
The movie begins with two men discussing business in the Corleone estate. It was August 1945, at the daughter of Don Corleone’s wedding, when the Don, the Godfather, was accepting requests upstairs. An old Sicilian tradition was that no father could refuse a request on the day of his daughter’s wedding, so the other Sicilian men “let’s a chance like that go by.”(pg. 26) Amerigo Bonasera, an undertaker, was an honest Sicilian man who made his home in the United States. Don Vito’s wife was the godmother of his only son, and although their wives were the best of friends, Amerigo never truly sought friendship with the Godfather. He was there today to request help to seek revenge on two boys who had abused his daughter. The godfather denies his request saying:
“We have known each other many years, you and I,”
he said to the undertaker, “but until this day you never
came to me for counsel or help. I can‘t remember the
last time you invited me to your house for coffee
–though my wife is godmother to your only child. Let us be frank. You spurned my friendship. You feared to be in my debt.”
Bonasera murmured, “I didn‘t want to get into trouble.” (pg.30/31)
It is here where we see the importance of friendship to Don Vito, and he is displeased that he did not offer his friendship, and instead asked the Don to murder for money. It is clear that the godfather strikes fear into Amerigo and that is why he regards him as authoritative. He was fearful of the Godfather and Amerigo did not want to be in his debt.
The Don being a good-hearted man changes his mind the day of his daughter’s wedding. He denies money but tells Amerigo that when the day comes he will call upon him a favour. The most important in this encounter is fear. He was fearful of Don Vito as he felt the Godfather’s authority to be too great. It is clear that Amerigo fears and respects the authority of the Godfather at the end of this encounter, and even asks for his friendship.
Friendship was something that Nazorine Pitelli and Don Vito had for many years. The two had played together as children. Now Nazorine was a baker but had been sure maintain friendship with the Don. They had been friends since they were children and Nazorine always paid his dues never asking anything of the Godfather. But today the Godfather was his last hope. Unlike Amerigo, they “greeted each other with an embrace.” (pg. 20) He had come asking for his daughter’s boyfriend to be kept in America because he was being deported after the war. Contrasted with Amerigo’s interaction with the Godfather we see how friendship is valued. The Godfather agrees to help him out immediately, and goes on in the book describing how it will be done.
The interaction shows that Nazorine, a man of loyalty and respect is treated as such by the godfather. The Godfather’s authority is clear in this meeting as he is a man capable of anything. Amerigo came not asking for friendship but for justice. Nazorine, a loyal friend of the Godfather comes as a friend asking a favour. These two encounters showed the authority of the Godfather through fear, and then friendship, but the encounters between Luca Brasi and the Godfather show the importance of loyalty to the Corleone’s and how even Luca Brasi is affected by the Don’s authority.
Luca Brasi was one of the most feared men of the Eastern Underworld. He could kill anyone without help, which made it almost impossible to convict him. It was said he did not fear anything; not god, not the devil; not the police. But the one man he had given his loyalty to was Don Corleone. Luca did not come to request anything only to give his thanks. Luca was noticed talking to himself outside, rehearsing what he would say to the Godfather. You could tell the Don made him nervous. He also contemplated how big of a cheque to give the family, as he was not expected to be invited to the wedding. Luca was a friend but more of an associate, and the loyalty between the two had been kept secret. Luca was not afraid to kill anyone or anything and he helped out the Don with some of his dealings.
When the two met in private, pleasantries were given, and the Don calls Luca his most loyal friend. You can see there is tension between the two, because even this giant scary man, is intimidated by the authority of the Don. It is clear that Luca is extremely loyal to the Godfather and he decides to write a larger cheque then anyone else that day. This is as a sign of thanks and respect for being invited to the wedding. Luca does not request anything only to express his thanks for being invited on that day. Luca respects the Don’s business as he keeps the meeting short and remains the Don’s most loyal friend.
Although Don Michael was also a Don in this series, I do not feel he was the true Godfather. The Don Vito built his legacy on loyalty, friendship and fear. The Don Michael lost his family, had only enemies, and was not a man of loyalty. That is why Don Vito to me was the true Godfather. Through these three meetings with characters throughout the novel and first film, we see how the men respect the authority of the Godfather through loyalty fear and friendship. Amerigo’s meeting with the Godfather showed us a glimpse of how the Godfather’s authority is evident, and what happens if he is not treated as such. The second meeting shows how Nazorine respects the authority the Godfather has and has been a friend his whole life. This is all the Godfather asks and he will help Nazorine with his daughter’s boyfriend. And Luca Brasi, the toughest, scariest person around, was intimidated, respectful and loyal to the man; the man they call…the Godfather.