"But now you come to me and you say, 'Don Corleone, give me Justice.' But you don't ask with respect, you don't offer friendship; you don't even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter's to be married and you ask me to do murder -- for money"
Even though the world of organized crime in The Godfather is highly illegal, there are certain moral codes that everyone involved recognizes. Don Corleone says this to Amerigo Bonasera, requesting his loyalty in exchange for action. Additionally, this scene demonstrates the nature of Don Corleone's power. He is a godlike figure who commands respect because he obeys the codes of his Old World predecessors. For example, he is in his office doing business during Connie's wedding reception because it is a Sicilian tradition that a man cannot say no to anything on his daughter's wedding day.
"He never asks a second favor when he's been refused the first. Understood?"
On the surface, Tom Hagen seems like he is any other businessman making a deal with Jack Woltz. However, everything he says is loaded with subtext, a device that appears throughout the film. In this way, Coppola establishes particular guidelines of integrity within the world of The Godfather. Tom Hagen never loses control or gets angry. He does not appear to be a criminal, and he does not outwardly threaten the producer. This quote, though somewhat innocuous on the surface, actually has deadly implications, just like Hagen himself. Basically, nobody ever refuses the Don a favor because he has the power to cause them a major amount of pain if they do. Clearly, Jack Woltz requires a demonstration of this power because he has the gall to refuse Don Corleone's request. The next morning, he wakes up with the severed head of his prized horse, Khartoum, in his bedsheets. As a result, Woltz finally understands and grants the favor.
"Now we have the unions, we have the gambling - and they're the best things to have - but narcotics is the thing of the future. Now if we don't get a piece of that action, we risk everything we have. I mean, not now, but ten years from now."
At the beginning of the The Godfather, Don Corleone is in the twilight of his career. He has built his empire and is now enjoying the spoils. However, this also means that there are young, hungry upstarts coming up behind him, threatening the foundation of the Corleone Family's power. Virgil Sollozzo has a profitable narcotics trade, which Tom Hagen and Sonny think could be a beneficial partnership. However, Don Corleone holds on to the strict moral code (based on the traditions of the Old World) that helped him rise to power in the first place, which includes avoiding the murky morality involved in the drug trade. The tension between the older Dons and the younger generation is one of the major themes in The Godfather.
"Just lie here, Pop. I'll take care of you now. I'm with you now. I'm with you."
This moment is a crucial turning point for Michael Corleone. After years of refusing to get involved in the Family Business, he decides to dive in. Coppola crafts this scene in an emotionally charged and subjective way, which keeps the audience engaged in Michael's descent into darkness. Michael enters the hospital where his injured, bedridden father is recovering, only to find that all of the guards and caretakers are gone. Michael realizes that his father's life is in danger, and that he is the only person there who can save him. Michael makes his entry into the Family Business based on personal reasons. However, his sense of responsibility and protectiveness is soon clouded by his hunger for power.
"Hey, whattaya gonna do? Nice college boy, eh? Didn't want to get mixed up in the family business, huh? Now you wanna gun down a police captain, what, because he slapped ya in the face a little bit? Hah? What do you think this is, the army, where you shoot 'em a mile away? You gotta get up close, like this -- bada bing! You blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit."
This quote captures the difference between Sonny and his brother, Michael. Sonny is not forward thinking, and blindly follows the Old World rules that his father has taught him (like: Never Kill Police). In this moment, Sonny also questions his brother's seriousness, essentially saying that Michael does not have the courage to kill a man in this context, outside the law. As a war hero, it is implied that Michael has killed before, but only within the context of service to his country. His idea to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey will be cold-blooded murder. In the end, it is Michael's disregard for the Old Way of doing things and his calculated demeanor that propel him to power. Meanwhile, Sonny's fiery temperament and puffed-up ego end up costing him his life.
"Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy back to me? I forgo the vengeance of my son. But I have selfish reasons. My youngest son was forced to leave the country because of this Sollozzo business... I have to make arrangements to bring him back in safety, cleared of all these false charges. But I'm a superstitious man, and if some unlucky accident should befall him--if he should get shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he's struck by a bolt of lightning, then I'm going to blame some of the people in this room. And that I do not forgive."
Don Corleone is a master of subtext, which is a result of Francis Ford Coppola's view of The Godfather - using organized crime as a metaphor for capitalism. Corleone never outwardly threatens anyone. He makes them "offers they can't refuse", or calls himself "superstitious" - knowing that everyone around him understands that these are threats on their lives. This is the way that Don Corleone commands respect and fear in equal regard. He portrays himself as a man of morals - a man who refuses to accept certain lines being crossed, when clearly, he is a criminal. He does not apologize for his actions, but also, does not accept defiance.
"Kay, my father's way of doing things is over, it's finished. Even he knows that. I mean, in five years the Corleone Family is going to be completely legitimate. Trust me. That's all I can tell you about my business, Kay..."
During the first scene of The Godfather, Michael promises Kay that he is not like his family. In this scene, several years later, he has changed his mind. He asks her to trust him - but at this point, neither of them realize that Michael's quest for legitimacy will cost him everyone he cares about. Michael compares Don Corleone to a Senator or a president, and Kay tells him he is naive - that senators don't have people killed. Michael, meanwhile, tells her that she is naive to think that. This is also a reflection of the way Michael views himself. He believes that because he wants to make the family business legitimate, he is not a criminal - and in this way, he justifies his illegal and often deadly tactics as business strategy. This quote also sets up the dynamic of Michael and Kay's renewed relationship - Michael keeps his business dealings a secret from Kay, even if it means lying to her.
"Tom, I advised Michael. I never thought you were a bad consigliere. I thought Santino was a bad Don, rest in peace. Michael has all my confidence just as you do. But there are reasons why you must have no part in what is going to happen."
Tom Hagen is part of the Corleone family, but he lacks the cunning and ruthlessness that both Michael and his father possess. In this quote, it seems as though Michael and Don Corleone are trying to squeeze Tom out of his position, but in reality, they are trying to protect him from the bloody massacre that they are planning. Both Michael and Sonny have criticized Tom Hagen for not being a "wartime consigliere" - he is not Sicilian and he thinks pragmatically. It is because of their love for love Tom that they decide to keep him on the legitimate side of the family business as much as possible. They understand and respect his limitations.
"Fredo. You're my older brother and I love you. But don't take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever."
Michael says this to his brother, Fredo, after Fredo tries to convince Michael not to buy out Moe Greene from his casino. It is representative of the Corleone family dynamic after Don Corleone's death. When Sonny dies, Don Corleone passes Fredo over and elects Michael as the new Don, which in turn, emasculates Fredo. When Michael arrives in Las Vegas, Fredo is all ready to throw him a party - he enjoys the spoils of the Corleone family's power while being mostly ineffective in their business. Michael, however, just wants to make a deal with Greene and go. Michael's power (both intellectually, personally, and professionally) over his older brother will continue to plague their relationship over the course of The Godfather, Part II, and ultimately becomes a key factor in Michael's moral unraveling.
"Michael, you lousy bastard, you killed my husband. You waited until Papa died so nobody could stop you and then you killed 'im. You blamed him for Sonny, you always did. Everybody did. But you never thought about me, you never gave a damn about me."
In this scene at the end of the film, it becomes apparent to Connie that Michael is a much more brutal Don than Vito had been. Michael crosses certain lines that Don Vito never would have, like retaliating against family members. At the end of Don Vito Corleone's life, it is clear that he has been able to maintain his humanity despite the violent nature of his work. He is able to separate himself from the world of organized crime, especially after he turns all his responsibilities over to Michael. At the moment when he dies, Don Corleone is playing in the garden with 3-year old Anthony, like a friendly old grandfather. Michael, however, becomes more and more ruthless as he rises to power - and he chooses business over his most precious relationships - like those with his sister and his wife.
The Godfather Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Godfather is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.