The Godfather: The Novel — Transcendentalism Runs in the Family


The Godfather
is considered a classic in both film and literature.  But the novel by Mario Puzo was made before the films, so in this post I would like to specifically single out the book and tie it into Transcendentalism.  Do I dare?

Yes.  I do, because the family values of the novel heavily relate to Transcendental ideals.

the godfather

One of the best stories about the Mob ever constructed, the novel deals with the Corleone crime family, headed by an aging Vito Corleone, and his three sons.  The oldest is Santino “Sonny” Corleone; the middle child is Frederico “Fredo” Corleone; and the youngest is Michael Corleone.  When the old man is ambushed by a rival family led by Virgil Sollozzo, the sons must stand up to the Five Families before their family becomes obsolete in the crime business.  This is an example of Transcendentalism because society’s corruption is represented by the Five Families and Sollozzo.  Their corruption causes them to lose their individuality as a family; therefore making the family start to fall apart after the old man’s injuries cause him to step down.


Al Pacino as Michael, Marlon Brando as Don Vito, James Caan as Sonny, and John Cazale as Fredo in The Godfather

Later on in the novel, (which takes place in the film The Godfather, Part II), Michael has trumped over the Five Families, assassinating Sollozzo and Barzini of the Tattaglia family.  Sonny has been killed, and Fredo consults with the family consigliere, Tom Hagen.  Michael’s biggest threat that he faces now as the new Don is that of Hyman Roth and Johnny Ola.  A hit was put out on Michael, which is said to be ordered by Frank Pentangeli, by later on is revealed that Roth initiated the attack on Michael’s home.  Michael now knows that Roth plans to kill him, but then he finds out that Fredo had worked with Johnny Ola, making it evident that Fredo was working with the enemy.  This displays Transcendentalism because Fredo had been corrupted by society, therefore compromising the integrity and individuality of the Corleone family.


John Cazale as Fredo and Al Pacino as Don Michael in The Godfather, Part II