Study Guide

Goodfellas Traditions and Customs

Traditions and Customs

While they may not have a cool, top-secret handshake, the wiseguys in Goodfellas definitely belong to their own exclusive club. Membership has its privileges, but it also includes a set of traditions and customs that govern behavior and simply cannot be ignored. "Membership in a Mob family comes with strangulating restrictions," notes Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. "There's no life outside of it." Whether it's paying Paulie his tribute, keeping your mouth shut, or being A-OK with the occasional murder, Henry and his crew know the deal—and they also know that shirking the family's traditions and customs can mean a one-way ticket to the boneyard.

Questions About Traditions and Customs

  1. If Tommy is aware of the mob's code of conduct, why does he kill Billy Batts?
  2. What role does masculinity play in the mob's traditions? How would the mob operate differently if the women were in charge?
  3. Does breaking with mob tradition play a part in Henry's downfall? How?

Chew on This

In Goodfellas, the mob's traditions and customs are the secret to their longevity. Without everyone's adherence to traditions, the organization couldn't exist.

The conclusion of Goodfellas shows that even the longest-running traditions can't survive interpersonal conflict and self-interest.

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