AP English III

AP English III



Mr. Jennings

AP English III

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Godfather by Mario Puzo creates a sense of masculinity based on power, dominance, and lack of "interference" by females. In this novel, women are played into the hands of men, like a puppet, with their every move constantly overlooked by a man. Puzo has created this sense of masculinity in one of the most well-known mafia families in New York: the Corleonefamily. The Corleone familyruns its sophisticated business dealing with strong tough guys. There was no place for women to get involved in the business. After WWII local mafias in New York, like the Corleone family, began to rise and dominate the political and social lives of Americans. Women were required to follow the man’s authority. If they didn’t do as they were told, they were either severely beaten or killed. Throughout the novel, women were showcased as a sideshow rather than part of the family, according to the Don and other men. Puzo writes this book revealing that men and women are different and therefore women should obey a man’s command.

Females throughout this novel have been constantly controlled by men. One of the ways females were dominated was through beatings. The Don’s sister, Connie, was often abused by her husband Carlo. Puzo begins to write Carlo’s feelings why he beats her so often:

“It pleased him to see the hurt look on her face, the tears springing to her eyes. She might be the daughter of the Great Don but she was his wife, she was his property now and he could treat her as he pleased. It made him feel powerful that one of the Corleones was his doormat.” (Puzo 297).

This specific quote reveals Carloas an abusive husband that sees his wife as his possession. By marrying a Corleone, Carlo gains power and uses his power to beat her purely for pleasure. Carlo viewed the “Great Don” as an inconsiderate man. Puzo writes: “... the Don wasn’t treating him right… He hoped the old bastard croaked.” (Puzo 297). Instead of risking his own life to dispute his relationship with the Don, Carlo turns to his less powerful figure in the family. Everyone views Don Corleone as a powerful man, but yet he does nothing to help Connie. The Don believes that she is on her own and needs to respect the husband Carlo is. He also was trying to protect his manhood in the New York and wanted nothing to damage his image to the people. “Even the King of Italy didn’t dare to meddle with the relationship of husband and wife. Go home and learn how to behave so that he will not beat you.” (Puzo 300). This further demonstrates the power men had in the late 1940’s. Not only is she being severely beaten for fun, her own father believes that Carlo is teaching her right by beating her.

The “Great Don” views women differently than Carlo but still shares his manly dominance control his wife. While the Don never beat up his wife, he is almost never seen with her. In addition, the novel never mentions the Don’s wife enough to be considered a sufficiently important character. For instance, the novel begins off by a wedding of Connie and Carlo. Puzo reveals the Don’s three sons in great detail while forgetting to describe the bride, Connie, and the Don’s wife, Mrs. Corleone. The Don’s wife, Mrs. Corleone is rarely mentioned in the novel at all. Puzo writes that the Don marries her at the age of sixteen, “...but a skilled cook, a good housewife.” (Puzo 242). The Don views his wife as someone that can cook, clean, and do all the housework for him. She is ideally what he was looking for when he was just a teen himself. While she takes care of her three sons and young daughter, the Don is out making “business” decisions for the family. He is yet another male figure that takes complete control of their families.

Another female fallen into the hands of a powerful man, Apollonia, was unlucky and deceived by Michael Corleone. To Michael’s perspective, “he found himself standing, his heart pounding in his chest; he felt a little dizzy.” (Puzo 421), Apollonia was the most beautiful girl in the world and he felt a sense of urgency to “own” her. He had made a trip to buy her a present and every night Michael would think of her lovely face and her lovely name. So when Michael went to meet with the girl, anyone who stood away from his girl would have been killed.

“He was at that moment ready to kill anyone who touched this girl, who tried to claim her, take her away from him. He wanted to own her as wildly as a miser wants to own gold coins, as hungrily as a sharecropper wants to own his land.” (Puzo 430).

Puzo uses metaphors to describe just how insanely in love Michael was in. He really wanted her and would do anything for her. He doesn’t sound too dominant or controlling until Puzo releases his deeper thoughts. “Nothing was going to stop him from owning this girl, possessing her, locking her in a house and keeping her prisoner, only for himself.” (Puzo 430). Puzo relates Michael and Carlo as men who went too far in their love. They believed that they had the power to possess them. Back to Apollonia, she was deceived and tricked by Michael who seemed as a nice guy, but was ultimately part of the mafia. Her death came to the hands of a man and while it was Michael who was supposed to die, it is only fitting that a female has to suffer for Michael’s past actions. Michael lies about his family and lies to Apollonia’s father who questioned whether or not he was part of a mafia. In the end, Apollonia was Michael’s possession up until her sudden death by a man who was hungry for love.

Luca Brasi can be described in one simple word: madman. He was a man that was feared by the Don. It would be an understatement to call him a dominant figure in society. So when Luca Brasi forced an elder to do a dirty deed, he was yet another man that had a sense of masculinity and dominance. The elder woman, who did the deed, was frightened just by his muscular physique. So when Luca ordered her to follow her: “she was too frightened to refuse.” (Puzo 439). This quote shows the males dominance over females that occur throughout the novel. Females back then had no way of protection. Luca delivers the deed to the elder explaining that his newborn son must be killed since he is not of Sicilian blood. The elder obviously refuses, but looking at Luca’s eyes was just too much for the elder. “It was terrible… so terrible. They were like two mad animals… They were not human.” (Puzo 440). Even though she knows what is right, Luca’s physical dominance allowed her to do the sinnest decision of her life. Luca’s eyes alone had forced her to do the trick. “There were the flames, there were Luca Brasi’s eyes. His face was the gargoyle of the devil, it was not human, it was not sane.” (Puzo 441). As mentioned earlier, men have the power to tell women to do whatever they want.

In this novel, men have no intentions of sharing their secretive data with their spouses. The Don has always shown a cautious mind when it comes to revealing specific details to others. He expresses his opinion why he thinks men need to be cautious about their business. “Women and children can afford to be careless, men cannot. Be leisurely in all these things, no frantic preparations to alarm our friends.” (Puzo 373). This quote exemplifies how the Don sees men and women differently in this world. He starts off by saying that women and children can afford to be careless. He views a woman’s thought process to be an equivalence of a child. He then goes on to say that men do not have the luxury of being as careless as women do. The Don believes in his head that men have to make smarter decisions in their life because one careless mistake and you find yourself dead. “A man has only one destiny” (Puzo 409). Puzo writes this quote to reveal that men have important business to deal with and that they have one goal. The one goal is to survive and try to keep their family alive. The Don uses all his power and intelligence to keep the Corleone family's reputation and lives safe from harm. To achieve this, the Don tries to dominate the Western hemisphere. After all as the Don states, “...great men are not born great, they grow great…” (Puzo 266). The Don’s destiny is to keep his family alive and well by organizing a mafia-style form of government for protection. If a female ever got in the way of the “Great Don” from his destiny, they would have been severely punished. A man has got to do what is best for the family and a female should not be the ones to criticize his decision making.

Kay Adams is the last female in the novel to be subjected to dominance and control by a man. Kay was blinded by the fact that Michael married a Sicilian girl. She was manipulated by Michael’s body language. After a while, Kay questions whether or not Michael did indeed kill Carlo. She was fooled yet again by Michael’s eyes and trust they had after marriage.

“He had never been more convincing. He looked directly into her eyes. He was using all the mutual trust they had built up in their married life to make her believe him. And she could no longer doubt any longer. She smiled at him ruefully and came into his arms for a kiss.” (Puzo 556).

Michael Corleone used his supremacy: his eyes, his marriage, and his manhood into tricking Kay into believing that he did not kill Carlo. Michael used his masculinity to outmatch Kay’s beliefs until a group of mafia members start to talk to Michael. Even when she found out the truth, she had no choice but to accept the truth and move on with life. What can she possibly do? The answer is nothing. In this day of age, females could only sit back and remain silent. “She felt uncomfortable and she was wary. He was studying her with what she thought privately as his “Don’s” eye.” (Puzo 563). As shown, women in this novel have resisted the ability to voice their opinions to their husbands. They don’t possess the will because of the male’s dominant presence around people.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo reveals a constant theme that reappears throughout the novel. The physical dominance, source of great power, and sense of masculinity all tie together creating a world that is run by males. Males were the superior gender during the period of the late 1940’s to the mid 1950’s. Women were seen as housekeepers of the family while the males do the real “business.” Even to this day, we still have sexism throughout the U.S. and even more evident outside of the United States. Throughout the entirety of this novel, men have showcased all their power to make females work for them and refrain themselves from speaking out openly to the public.