Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Character analysis

“That’s my family, Kay. That’s not me.”

He was the best and the brightest of the Corleone brothers. He was the family hero, the most respectable son of Don Vito Corleone, who had the highest hopes for Michael in the “legitimate world.” But when his father was shot, Michael could not keep himself from getting mixed-up in the family business. Inevitably, he took over. What followed was his freefall into a bottomless corruption. While he once distanced himself to Kay from the ways of his family, Michael eventually grew to embody the worst of everything his family represented. Yet, he loved his family dearly. Family was the most important thing in the world to him. However, he was so vengeful, he would kill his own brother, Fredo. He was sane and mad, kind and cruel, powerful and weak. He was a masterful, strategic thinker blinded by vengeance. He would publicly renounce Satan and all of his works at the baptism of his godson and promise that he would protect that child from the wickedness of the world while outside his men murdered all of his enemies. To Kay he was loving and tender, then callous and even sadistic. He could negotiate with anyone, but yet he could not talk to Kay. In that one crucial moment when he agreed to be honest with Kay and tell her about his business, he lied. He used corrupt methods to muscle his family into a “legitimate” life, thereby sealing his family forever in a permanent state of corruption.

The main character, Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino is a prime example of tragedy in a hero. The changes he forgoes throughout the film change him from one extreme to another.

The Godfather created by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo is by many people, considered the greatest movie ever made. It has influenced the creation of dozens of mafia movies after it's creation, and has impacted the cinema industry in countless ways. It is not only the amazing casting, the direction, the production and writing that cause people to be astounded with this film, but the characters and the acting are that like no other. The characters portrayed in The Godfather are often defined as tragic heroes. The main character, Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino is a prime example of tragedy in a hero. The changes he forgoes throughout the film change him from one extreme to another.
Tragedy is a downfall, often a change from something good to bad. This is very evident in Michael. When we first meet him he is a very honest looking, war hero type, that is very distant from the business of his father and the family. He is shown missing in the pictures, but still loved by the family, especially his father. Michael is at the wedding with a beautiful woman who seems very interested in him and vice versa. He is originally portrayed as a very honest, ideal guy.
It is not until after his father, Vito Corleone's attempted murder that you see a new side to Michael. He goes to visit his father in the hospital only to realize that the police were no longer there to protect him. When he calls his family, the police come as well and hit him and attempt to arrest him. The disloyalty of McCluskey and Sollozzo outrage Michael and he makes plans for their murder. Clemenza and Tessio explain to him that they will go to a restaurant and he would go to the bathroom, where the gun would be hidden and he would come out and shoot them both. This all goes to plan and Michael must hide in Sicily for safety. This is the turning point in the life of Michael. He had immersed himself in the business of the family.
After the meeting Don Corleone set up with the heads of all the families it was safe for Michael to return home. He came home an entirely different person. Not only did he get married and his wife was murder by a set up expected for him, but his life back in a America was bound to be one full of family business affairs. In time, he became more and more in charge of the affairs of the family. Nearer to the end he took the place of his father and ran the family business. He had now chose violence as the answer to problems, but was settling all the loose ends from the past. His decision to set up the string of murders beginning with the death of his sister Connie's abusive, disloyal, two-faced husband shows the true difference in Michael Corleone. He is all about business now. He accepted the position as godfather to their child, yet still allowed his murder. Compared to the otherwise simple murder of McCleusky and Sollozzo, these were more severe and served a greater purpose. He was all for the family now, and was not the honest man he was when we first met him.
Michael Corleone is a hero in the fact that he was courageous and his actions not only helped himself, but others. What he did affected others as well as himself and even just the family. He is tragic in the sense of his change; his downfall from what is seen as honest and hardworking, to manipulative and "gangster." He is a character that can be described in many ways, but a tragic hero is very appropriate.


  1. Nice job. What I always found interesting about the Godfather Trilogy is that it's also a commentary on society in general. No matter how many times Michael tried to become legitimate or how high he moved in society, there was always corruption. Whether it was the US Congress or the Vatican, there was always corruption and Michael was always pulled back into the underworld. Not that society could be blamed, Michael made his own choices. But Puzo and Coppola definitely painted a somewhat negative picture of the so-called legitimate world.