Study Guide

Goodfellas Morality and Ethics

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Morality and Ethics

To say that the wiseguys in Goodfellas play fast and loose with morals would be an understatement the size of Tuddy Cicero. Henry and his crew take what they want, from whomever they want, whenever they want—and they don't feel a drop of guilt about it. They're blinded by ambition and a desire for wealth without doing an honest day's work. They're never troubled by a guilty conscience.

Henry, Jimmy, Tommy—these guys never met a truck they couldn't hijack, an airport they couldn't rob, or a girlfriend they couldn't set up in an apartment around the corner. To them, their warped moral code is all in the name of the American Dream and providing for their families, and it's not at all warped. It's just living well. Commuting and worrying about the rent? Leave that to the schnooks. Psychiatrists call these guys sociopaths, and the bad news is that they never change.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. Why is Henry initially attracted to the mob's immoral lifestyle?
  2. Why is Karen so upset by Henry's infidelity? She seems pretty cool with his committing of bucket loads of crime, so what's the difference?
  3. Why can't Henry just pay off the detectives who bust him for drugs in his driveway? How is that situation different from bribing prison guards or Jimmy paying off the cops while hijacking the cigarette truck?
  4. Is Henry a sociopath or just a product of a culture full of them?

Chew on This

The wiseguys in Goodfellas don't view themselves as criminals; they view themselves as outlaws.

For Henry, entering the Witness Protection Program is akin to a death sentence.

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