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Godfather Moral Downfall

Essay by review  •  October 13, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,213 Words (5 Pages)  •  818 Views

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Critics agree that in The Godfather, the protagonist, Michael Corleone (Mikey) changes from a person with moral principles and a legitimate role in society to a cold-blooded mobster. In the beginning of the movie, Mikey shows his reluctance to involve himself in the Mafia when he tells his girlfriend, Kaye, about his father's (Vito Corleone) business methods of coercion and says he will never be like his family. However, as Mikey's involvement with the family business increases his violent tendencies become more apparent as he volunteers to murder a rival thug and a corrupt police officer. In the final scene, Mikey kills his brother-in-law, and when confronted by Kaye, he looks her in the eyes and claims no role in the murder. At this point, he completely transforms from a military hero and legitimate citizen, to a Mafia don capable of lies and murder. While Mikey's transformation is quite obvious, the reason for this change in moral behavior is a more complex issue. The change in ethical behavior is a result of Mikey's decision to become more involved with his family, consequently putting him in an environment that promotes immoral behavior.

Michael Corleone's problem is an internal conflict between loyalty to family and moral principle. After an assassination attempt on Mikey's father, Mikey decides to return to the family and assume leadership, even though he disapproves of Mafia business practices. The strength of family ties, ingrained in Mikey as a youth, influenced his choice.

Decisions in choosing between right and wrong should not be confined to just a matter of the individual, but a response influenced by the family. Psychologists feel that the rearing of a child during early years plays a particularly important role in influencing behavior throughout a child's life. So, certain choices simply will not be made due to values established at an early age, since cognitive moral development restricts "free will" to some degree. Obviously, growing up in a Mafia family would put Mikey in an environment where he experiences a tainted view of right and wrong.

Also, in the family situation, pressures from the group (the family) often influence the individual's behavior making the individual's decisions more difficult. Therefore, someone not taught independence will have trouble standing up against the family. For example, Mikey holds a notion of responsibility to his family during the crisis of his father's endangered health, and the members of the family business even expect him to react, taking part in his father's protection. When Mikey presents his plan to eliminate those who plot against Vito, everyone in the room takes pleasure in Mikey's participation, all except his older brother Sonnie. A concern for his brother's safety explains Sonnie's initial reluctance to follow Mikey's plan, but this soon fades. In accordance to the pressures of the group, the Corleones teach loyalty to family, and they continually use the phrase "its not personal, its business" to justify immoral actions to others. Not to mention, the example of the scene where a long time employee of the Corleones is murdered because of his alleged role in Don Corleone's assassination attempt shows how the Corleone family values loyalty. In turn, disloyalty to the family brings death, so one can only expect that children of the family will adopt a similar set of values as their parents.

Although Mikey attempts to isolate himself from his family, the strength of family ties proves too strong, and he eventually is lured back to the family business. The Corleone family situation constitutes a setting where the family is stressed over the individual, evident by the fact that all of the "children" live at home even though they are grown. They further demonstrate family loyalty at numerous group functions such as weddings and baptisms where many family members attend. More importantly, the Corleone's idea of loyalty is best expressed when Michael warns his brother, Fredo, not to take sides against the family, after Fredo appeals to Michael on behalf of a competing businessman. This shows that Mikey's awareness that family should come before the individual.

Biology also influences loyalty to family, in that caring for offspring has been programmed into our consciousness, through evolution. Parents usually do whatever they can in providing for their child and making sure he is fit for survival out of notions of responsibility. As aging progresses, these roles may switch; the son may take

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