Puzo presents characters through raw action and dialogue rather than psychological analysis, introspection, or literary mannerisms. Some characters are roundly and subtly developed; others are relatively static.
Vito Corleone emerges as a mythic figure of superhuman proportions. He defines an ethnic ideal whose achievements mirror the might of a nation. As the novel unfolds, he suffers a reversal of fortune, yet he remains a static character whose personality, morals, and wisdom are unchanged by events. Throughout, he is the touchstone by which other characters may be assessed.
The flashback to his youth shows that he fell into crime not through degeneracy or psychosis but almost unwittingly, by helping a friend to hide a sack that was later found to contain guns. Even his murder of the extortionist proceeds from his sure sense of justice.
Michael, on the other hand, is a roundly conceived character who undergoes significant change as he seeks and finds his authentic self. In youth he is considered effete and aloof, too naïve to enter the family business. Others in the family are troubled by his going to college and into military service; they do not identify with such institutions of legitimate society as he does. The attack on his father, though, steels Michael’s character. He finds the courage to save his family. His return to the homeland enables him to appreciate his father’s way of life, and he embraces his ethnic...
(The entire section is 436 words.)