Study Guide

The Godfather Revenge

Revenge

DON CORLEONE: I understand. You found paradise in America. You had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. So you didn't need a friend like me. Now you come and say "Don Corleone, give me justice." But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me "Godfather." You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to do murder—for money.
BONASERA: I ask you for justice.
DON CORLEONE: That is not justice. Your daughter is alive.
BONASERA: Let them suffer then as she suffers.

This is a good example of Don Corleone's code. He won't perform revenge that is out of proportion to the deed. Even though he's a criminal, he, paradoxically, wants to be just.

SONNY: No, no, no! No more! Not this time, Consigliere! No more meetin's! No more discussions! No more Sollozzo tricks! You give 'em one message—I want Solozzo. If not, it's all-out war, we go to the mattresses.
[…]
TOM HAGEN: This is business, not personal.
SONNY: They shot my father? It's business, your ass.
TOM HAGEN: Even the shooting of your father was business, not personal, Sonny!

Sonny is unable to understand that it's all really business, and none of it is personal. This is what makes him an ineffective Don and what leads to his demise, in a way. Michael, on the other hand, grasps this truth and sticks to it.

DON CORLEONE: I want no inquiries made. I want no acts of vengeance. I want you to arrange a meeting with the heads of the Five Families. This war stops now.

Don Corleone can't pursue vengeance for the murder of his own son. This is humiliating for him, but Sonny ordered Tattaglia's son killed earlier in the movie, so they're relatively even on that count. He's accepting the loss as a better business decision than continuing to fight would be.

DON CORLEONE: You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me? I forgo the vengeance of my son.

Don Corleone, despite being a gangster, sees that vengeance in this case would be pointlessly destructive. He's accepting that the death of his son was business, even if it grieves him.

DON CORLEONE: […] But I'm a superstitious man, and if some unlucky accident should befall him... if he should be shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he's struck by a bolt of lightning, then I'm going to blame some of the people in this room, and that I do not forgive. But, that aside, let me say that I swear, on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace we have made here today.

Don Corleone is making this decision partly out of defeat, and partly out of wisdom. It shows that he has great self-control—but he'll lose it if Michael dies.