The Godfather:A Family Portrait By: Chris Dobbins
The Corleone Family• The Corleones are a prestigious crime family that control many aspects of Long Island, NY. This story begins with the wedding ceremony of The Don’s (Vito Corleone). Throughout the film, family members experienced extraordinary circumstances while dealing with the death of loved ones, development with new ones, new situations or any change that affects the family from the outside world. Despite the fact that they’re a rich and powerful family, the way they communicate are very similar especially to Italian-Americans.
What kind of Family is The Corleone?• In The Text, the authors suggest numerous types of family: two-parent biological, single-parent, primary parent, blended family and extended family. The Corleone are a very interesting family to categorized because the Godfather treats many people like his “god children.” When someone establishes a business partnership or comes to the Don for a favor, a ceremonious kiss on the hand is performed, which allows access to the family. In a way, The Don has adopted these outsiders and incorporate many family values into these relationships. For example, Tom, a lawyer for the family, grew up with the Corleones after his father abandoned him. As an adopted son, he has learned about good manners with business clientele and established a brotherhood with Sonny and Michael. Despite his loyalty, Tom cannot move up in the “family business” because he’s not a blood relative. In a sense, The Don has established two different families: A blended family that includes friends and business partners and his biological one. His biological family include: Carmella (his wife), Sonny (his oldest son), Constanzia (his only daughter), Fredo (second oldest son), and Michael (the youngest son).
A Close Family is a Good Family• The Corleone’s seem to value a strong sense of cohesion. According to the text, there are four levels of cohesion: disengaged, Connected, cohesive and enmeshed. The Corleone’s seem to have a desire of loyalty and dependence on each other. Michael, who would eventually become the head of the family, seemed a little distance in the beginning because of his involvement with the war and a woman. After getting involved with the family business and discovering the family roots in Sicily, he becomes a very loyal to the family again. When watching the film, viewers might notice that family makes almost no contact with the outside world unless it’s for business relations. The men constantly remind each other about how important it is to do what’s best for the whole. The grandmother, Carmella, is always talking about taking care of the children and making sure that family always comes first. It’s commonly known that Italian-Sicilian families experience cohesive and enmeshed styles.
Things Rarely Change• The Corleone Family has a rigid adaptability- meaning that authoritarian leadership and roles hardly change. The movie depicts that the patriarch (The Godfather of the family) only falls from that position because of death or retirement. This patriarch commands many aspects of the family due their economic status. This person conveys a message of virility to the youngest men, showing them that strength and stability is essential to being a great man. The women are always depicted as homemakers; dedicating their lives to raising the children and providing what their husbands need.
Ethnicity• After many years of immigration, The Don still practices the values that originated from his native land. Ethnicity describes someone’s personal background; this usually includes common ancestry, language, and cultural ancestry. Italian families are commonly known for large, high-key celebrations, camaraderie, charm, and attention to family honor. Like many Italian families, the Corleones function in multigenerational networks that include godparents, district relatives and even friends outside the family. Usually the father is the head of the family while the mother is the heart. Throughout the film, we see love and devotion for the family from all sides, even people from the outside. Michael receives cooking advice on how to cook for twenty men (using wine, sugar, sausages and other important Italian food); certain members only speak to each other in Italian; and family members always greet each other with kisses.
Narratives• Narratives are used to create meaning, to remember, to identify, to convey expected behavior, to share deep values to current and new members and to provide a connection between families. Narratives fall into two categories: stories and accounting. Stories provide a sense of history and telling dearest and favorite memories. Accounting explains people’s behavior or situations. In the opening scene, The Don talks to a begrudged man who asks him to kill two boys that sexually assaulted his daughter. The man begins his conversation with how much he believed in America, but can’t trust the legal system. The story of his daughter’s assault conveys that America has its flaws and sometimes you have to alternative action to receive justice. After the Don decides to provide help for the man, the ceremonious kiss is performed, and now the man is a part of the Corleones. Another story is the Life of Tom and his struggle as a orphan. He’s considered a son to the family because The Don understood that everyone deserved a family. Tom uses this stories to convey the message that just because you’re not blood, doesn’t exactly mean you’re not family.
Rituals• Rituals convey meanings of time spent together within families. These rituals don’t just consist actions but also worlds. Rituals aren’t just used to provide pleasure for the family but to maintain functions. Most often, rituals consist of events and settling conflicts. In The Godfather church is essential to the Family’s faith. They believed that going to church every Sunday qualified them as a religious family. Another important ritual in The Corleone Family is Weddings. The two weddings in this film display very large gatherings of Italian families. Smiling, father and daughter bonding, rice throwing, gift exchanging, etc.- seem to be practiced in both weddings. Also, another ritual that the Corleones practice is Sunday dinner. This is essential to bonding and spending time with each other. Sonny reprimands Carlo (his sister’s husband) to never discuss business at the table to respect the rules set up by his father and to joy the company of each other.
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family isn’t a real man.”• The Don strongly believes that spending time with loved ones is far more important than anything else in his life. He practices what many experts call relational currencies. Relational Currency is something very hard to specify but the important thing to remember is that it shows and allows people to make a connection. When we send a loved one a message of affection, we’re showing relational currencies. For example, After The Don is shot, Michael visits the hospital he’s staying at and moves him around to make sure no that no enemy knows his whereabouts. After Michael comes to his rescue, The Don grabs his hand and smiles. Another example of relational currency is listening and giving advice. After Michael has become the head of the family, His father and him talk about how intelligent his son is. Here we see The Don giving him advice about balancing family and the business. Another example is the beating that Sonny gives to Carlo. After seeing his sister’s bruised face, Sonny finds her abusive husband and beats him to a bloody pulp. After this violent incident, Sonny says, “If you touch my sister again, I’ll kill you.”
Aspects of Power• According to a study done by Macdonald (1980), power inside families are created by five different resources. Normative resources refer to family values and their cultural definition of where authorities lie; it represents what certain family members function based on their cultural. For instance, The Don, Michael and Sonny are all competent males who take over the family business. Based on Italian culture, the strongest male is the patriarch. The women provide to the children’s activities and taking care of what the lead male needs. The mother’s duty is to make sure that the family functions.
Aspects of Power (continued)• Economic resource is the power granted by those who make the income and the financial decisions. The family business consists of a managing an olive oil company, running casinos, union racketeering, illegal gambling, drug dealing and so much more. Since The Don and Michael ran the business like they ran their family, they called all the shots. They felt that they were the breadwinners. When they make all the money, it is “their money.” Affective resources reflect who in the family nurtures who and how each family members feels loved or belongs to the system. For example, during a business meeting, Sonny interrupts The Don’s conversation with Virgil Sollozzo, a drug kingpin. After the interruption, The don belittles him by calling him “spoiled.” After the meeting, he’s reprimanded for his actions.
Aspects of Power (continued)• Personal resources refer to an individual members such as personality, appearance and ability. These include interpersonal factors that cause members to appear more competent. Because Sonny is such a charming man and a powerful aspect of the family, he seems to get away with cheating on his wife. The fifth and final aspect is known as Cognitive resource. This resource refers to a personal’s logic and intelligence in regards to their power. When Michael becomes the patriarch, he has relative ease with his position because he watched the success of his father and the failure of his brother Sonny.
Orchestration Power• Hierarchies in the family system have what is referred to as orchestration power. This power allows important members to control family life and make critical decisions. The Don delegates trivial decisions to those who work underneath him, especially Tom. Since Tom carries out specific duties, he contains implementation power. Tom is told to travel to Hollywood to talk to an important figure about asking for a friend actor to be in a film that he was originally reject from. Due to the fact that this task is time consuming, The Don couldn’t go all the way out to Hollywood to do this.
Decision Making• Family decisions can neither be Instrumental- solving functional issues like getting a job- and Affective decisions- decisions made based upon emotions or feelings. It’s quite obvious that this family business exist to benefit the family,, but the film seems to blur the line between instrumental and affective decision making. After Michael’s jaw is broken by the chief of police, Michael suggests that they seek revenge for their father’s attempted murder and his wounded face. Sonny says that he’s taking this killing business “way to personally.” Michael quickly fires back that a crooked cop caught up in drug trafficking would be great for story to expose to the Newspaper (they have people from the newspaper company on their payroll). Between Sonny, Michael, Tom and others, they all come to a agreement that was approved by everyone; this decision was made by consensus. Usually, the head of the family makes all the decisions without the approval of others. This is referred to as a de-facto decision.