Monday, February 27, 2012

Mario Puzo's Cosa Nostra, "The Godfather"

A lesser known novelist named Mario Gianluigi Puzo hit the instant road to fame with his third novel "The Godfather."

Sonna Cosa Nostra,” Don Vito Corleone, the ruthless, intelligent, “reasonable” and loyal protagonist of Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather would say at the peace conference convened to bring peace to New York, where his family was waging a war with five other families of the city. “These are our own affairs.” But, fortunately for Puzo, millions of people who read the book over four decades and still read it did not think so. Many readers are transformed into that era of organized crime by the vivid descriptions of this unique book on the Italian-American mafia.

The Uniqueness of The Godfather

The fact that The Godfather had something unique was obvious given the sales record it achieved in the United States, where stories about organized crime was commonplace. Americans had seen a number of crime bosses and industrious criminals, both of Italian and other origins. They had seen Al Capone and Chicago. But Mario Puzo was showing them a different picture. Chicago was the black sheep of the mafia and the other families had given up trying to civilize the mad dogs from Chicago. So, what many Americans saw as the so called mafia was not the real thing.

Mario Puzo’s mafia was about family, as some critics point out. It was a family operation and loyalty to the family was most important, more than anything else. At one stage, Don Corleone was even ready to risk some of his business interests to protect his family and at times he had to humble himself in front of others. The Don’s visit to Bonasera in the dead of the night is the most important event in that aspect. The loyalty to the family was epitomized by the omerta, the code of silence. Disloyalty was to be punished severely. In reality, many outsiders did not know much about the mafia till late 20th century due to the omerta and therefore it was a mysterious group to say the least.

Family was not so important to many Americans in those turbulent days of 1960s. But it was perhaps second only to God for the Italians living in America. This opened up a new world, the world of the Italians to the American public and must have been very interesting to many of the readers. They saw such crime bosses were also fathers who protected their children and “friends” who valued friendship and loyalty more than money. Puzo may have enraged many law-abiding Italian-Americans, but he amazed a larger number of others in the world and still does.

Mario Puzo introduced many terms to the English speaking world through his book The Godfather. The terms such as Cosa Nostra, consigliere, caporegime and omerta were introduced to the English readers in this book. Apart from being a work of fiction, this novel described the history of the so called mafia. Also, by describing the events of Corleone’s youth the writer gives another view of emigrant Italian communities in the early part of the 20th century.

Business Management of Don Vito Corleone

The novel gives an idea of the management skills of the ‘businessmen’ involved, especially the Godfather himself. The allocation of funds and personnel, devolution of power to subordinates, clearly defining their roles in the organization, SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) are all important factors to the success of the Corleone Empire. Leadership was extremely important. Without the Godfather, the family business was bound to fall and it would have happened if Vito Corleone had died before Mike was ready to take the leadership.

Description of Events in the Novel

Some of the events in the novel are described so vividly that the reader can not help seeing them acted out in front of his own eyes. The assassination attempt on the Godfather, Michael’s visit to the hospital, Michael killing Sollozzo and the police Captain, Sonny’s death, early days of Vito Cprleone and the death of Fanucci are just a few.

Opening up the whole new territories of the mafia and the Italian family, and the vivid, captivating descriptions of events have ensured the enduring popularity of The Godfather.


1. Mario Puzo, The Godfather (1969)

2. Barra, Allen, What Puzo Godfathered 40 Years Ago, Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition), Aug. 13, 2009. (Retrieved on 27 July 2010)

3. Bing, Stanley, The Godfather, Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition), Vol 247, Issue 106. Retrieved 27 July 2010.

4. O'Conner, John J., By Way of Mario Puzo, All in the Family, Again. NY Times, 9 May 1997, Retrieved 28 July 2010

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