The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleones Became "Our Gang"
Christian K. Messenger
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Mario Puzo s The Godfather is an American pop phenomenon whose driving force is reflected not only in book sales and cable television movie marathons but also in such related works as the hit television series The Sopranos. In The Godfather and American Culture, Chris Messenger offers an important and comprehensive study of this classic work of popular fiction and its hold on the American imagination. As Messenger shows, the Corleones have indeed become our gang, and we see our family business in America reflected in them. Examining The Godfather and its many incarnations within a variety of texts and contexts, Messenger also addresses Puzo s inconsistent affiliation with his Italian heritage, his denial of the multiethnic literary subject, and his decades-long struggle for respect as a writer in contemporary America. The study ultimately offers a way of looking at the much-maligned genre of popular or bestselling fiction itself. By placing both the novel and films within a number of revealing critical situations, Messenger addresses the continuing problem of how we talk about elite and popular fiction in America and what we mean when we take sides."
Jeffersonian democracy, which he feared as the ultimate anarchy in the making. The irony is that the Corleones and their mob compatriots are the beneficiaries of the extension of democracy in the vast waves of European emigration that punctuate the beginning of the American twentieth century. Vito Corleone stands at the financial pinnacle of the mob empire in The Godfather espousing Hamilton’s fiscally sound policies but living under Jefferson’s egalitatrian dispensation. One suspects it was not
old manuscripts) and then the money is “covered” by more story (the bogus article notes) for the Vegas trip. The double reconversion of the bills is bound to writing, yet not earned by it, and implicated in Merlyn’s writerly and life decisions. An aura of timid, domestic hoarding is evident here— hall closets, kitchen tables, kissing the wife good night, and pleading work. Beneath pages and pages and years of hard work is the bribe money, the printed bills—better than marital sex, better than
Michael Corleone’s view of his own family habitare, we can see how he brings a hybridized perspective to Italianita. Michael’s ethnic passage in The Godfather is a complicated one. When the novel opens, he’s the decorated war hero fresh from a semester at Dartmouth, bringing his New England girlfriend to a family wedding. We see no real internal battle in Michael, who has no reveries or impulses to break away from family into America. The reader is presented with Michael’s heroic status as a
capital, Barbato broods about the plight of the immigrant Italians because “he always wished that the people who gave him money were a little better dressed, that they had better furniture” (108). Although “his escape was complete” (107), his medical treatment of both Octavia and Lucia Santa finds him conceptualizing them in ways with strict reference to Bourdieu’s designations of class-bound distinction through differing aesthetic perception. “Dr. Barbato was simply a man who could not stand the
your own money, with the companies you owned, the power you had to give orders. It was ten times worse than Communism. It had to be smashed. It must never be allowed” (69). Puzo is clear enough on the specific viewpoint of Woltz who asks that this “it,” this Corleone anarchy out of feudalism visited upon him, be checked by some limits, an order that should prevail over freedom and license. An apostle of American capitalism and its licenses, he cannot see past power and money in the implications