(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Godfather shows how an orphaned Sicilian immigrant rises to the top of organized crime in America and how his son, who at first shuns his father’s world, comes to embrace his father’s way of life. Father and son overcome ethnic prejudice and economic disadvantages by learning to profit from the good and evil aspects of human nature.

The novel begins on the day of the wedding of the Don’s daughter Connie to Carlo Rizzi. The Don is at the height of his power, which he uses to benefit his friends. He orders revenge on men who beat his undertaker’s daughter but whom a corrupt judge set free on suspended sentences; he arranges for Congress to grant citizenship to a prisoner of war so he may marry the daughter of his baker; and he obtains a starring role for his godson by making a movie producer “an offer he can’t refuse”: The producer is put in fear for his life when he awakens to discover the severed head of his beloved racehorse beside him in bed. The Don wields great power over the American justice system, big business, and the law itself.

The Don is approached by Virgil Sollozzo, who needs financing and political protection for his heroin smuggling. The Don’s ethics do not allow him to trade in drugs or prostitution, so he refuses the deal. Sonny, though, rashly lets Sollozzo’s compatriots know that he favors the deal, and rival crime families attempt to assassinate the Don. He is hit by five bullets and barely survives.

Just when the Corleone family seems leaderless, Michael finds his destiny. He discovers that police protecting his father have been ordered away from his hospital room. Michael bravely foils a second attempt on the Don’s life. When he confronts Police Captain McCluskey with taking a bribe to remove the bodyguards,...

(The entire section is 735 words.)