Study Guide

Goodfellas Power

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In Goodfellas, having money is a superpower. The wiseguys are fueled by a one-two punch of ambition and greed. Their wives run on mink coats and expensive sofas, rationalizing that their husbands are just hardworking guys looking to provide for their families and get ahead of those suckers who take the train to work and worry about paying the electric bill. But, money alone doesn't make these wiseguys powerful; it also takes muscle. They exert control through forceā€”or, if not actual force, through the threat of it. Henry and his crew are large and in charge because they can grease pockets and bust heads. Everything is theirs for the taking. It's also theirs to lose.

Questions About Power

  1. Given the lengths to which he goes to preserve his power, how relatable is Henry? Do you feel sympathy for him at any point?
  2. Why is Paulie afraid of going out like Gribbs, who he says is 70 and going to croak in prison?
  3. On a scale of one to 10, how powerful is Tommy? Show your work.
  4. What about Karen? Does she hold any authority? If so, how? If not, why?

Chew on This

Henry's fall from power was inevitable because his lifestyle was too decadent to maintain.

In Goodfellas, possessions equal power.

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