Who Really is "The Godfather"? Analysis of the role of Don Vito and Michael Corleone in The Godfather I and II.

Essay by betsyrubbleUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, October 2007

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When Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Mario Puzo's "The Godfather" begins, we see Vito Corleone as the head of his Mafia Family, the Corleones. He is addressed by numerous characters as "Godfather" and so we assume Vito to be the titular character. However, Vito may be a Godfather to many, but he is not "The" Godfather Puzo intends to create in his story. In fact, Vito's youngest son and eventual successor, Michael, is The Godfather, as named by Puzo. This is made clear using the plot structure in Godfather Parts I and II, which shows Michael's transformative path of basing his actions off his father's own past. Due to the transfer of power within the family, we can also see that, despite Michael's attempts to rebuff his chosen future and create his own path, becoming The Godfather is a destiny that Michael cannot control; in fact, it controls him.

The first thing that seems to imply that Michael is truly "The" Godfather is the story line of Godfather I. As the movie begins, Vito Corleone sits at his desk, and it is clear he is the head of his Mafia Family. However, our knowledge of a movie's plot is that it expresses a series of actions that often change the main character, and the dynamic result is most often associated with the title. Thus, Vito cannot be The Godfather, since he starts in this role and in the end relinquishes it to his son. Instead, Michael learns from his father's past and present actions and follows his path to becoming the Family boss, resulting in his position as The Godfather. Coppola shows through the father-son shift how a family transforms, power shifts, and titles evolve.

Godfather II opens with a telling portrait of Vito Andolini's early life; his...