Monday, March 18, 2013

Mario Puzo's 'The Godfather' - Discussion Questions

Mario Puzo (1920 - 1999)

Spoiler Alert! Readers, be aware that the following questions give away a lot of the plot. If you haven’t yet read the book, perhaps you may want to do that first before reading any further.

Is this book a rampant glorification of violence, of the end justifying the means? Discuss.

“Life is so beautiful”- Do you find it surprising that these should be the last words of someone who has lived the life that Vito Corleone has? Having read the book, can you account for his final statement?

Michael Corleone’s life takes several unexpected turns. How does this college-educated war-hero and aspiring Math teacher change from being the virtual family outcast to becoming the chosen heir of the Don? Do you find the transformation convincing? What does Michael hope to achieve when he says, “Tell my father I wish to be his son”? What does he gain? What does he lose?

What do you think of the Don’s belief that “every man has one destiny” and that witnessing his father’s actions predetermined Sonny’s? Sonny is a charismatic character capable of both great protective instincts and remorseless violence; the author ascribes near-mystical causes for his violent nature (Book IV, Ch. 19). Would you agree that probably nothing could have altered the path his life takes?

There are five main female characters in the novel – Kay, Mama Corleone, Connie, Lucy Mancini, and Apollonia. Though these women are beloved of the Corleone men, how far, if to any extent, do they impact the decisions of the family? Are their roles merely ornamental, or does their characterization depict something about the culture and mindset of the society to which they belong?

There are a couple of sidebars to the main plot namely, the world of Hollywood, and the world of Las Vegas. Are these scenes pertinent to the story, or do they merely provide the requisite sex and glamor quotient to what was intended to be a commercial money-maker?

Is there a moral order to the literary universe of ‘The Godfather’? Does the book represent Good and Evil as absolute values, or impractical ideals in a world that is inherently flawed?

“…There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them. You don’t try to justify them. They can’t be justified. You just do them. Then you forget it.”

“Michael was not yet the man his father was…[he] still was not that confident of his right, still feared being unjust, still worried about that fraction of an uncertainty…”

What do these two statements reveal about the concept of leadership expressed in this book? Is it necessary or acceptable that those who wield enormous power over others should never question their own actions? If self-assurance is key to inspiring confidence in others, to what extent would any evidence of self-doubt undermine their authority?

Did you see the climax coming, or did it take you by surprise? Could the same results have been achieved by different means? Can there ever be forgiveness among people like these, or would it only be interpreted as weakness?

How faithful have the Godfather movies been to the vision of Puzo? How do they differ? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the literary and cinematic versions?

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