The Godfather

Narrative Structure Essay: How To Make a Mobster Lovable In his film The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola creates a narrative structure, very similar to that seen in Classic Hollywood cinema. Events in the film unfold chronologically, and cause and effect ultimately help shape the narrative. The Godfather’s long narrative span, covers a very significant time in American history, and centers around the idiosyncrasy of family. The film is told entirely within the closed world of the Corleone family, which creates sympathy for the main characters, who otherwise would be considered evil.

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Coppola draws the audience into the Godfather’s world by divulging into each of the characters personalities, following them through every significant change and role reversal. Coppola begins his film, by artfully bringing his large cast onstage. By the end of the wedding scene, most of the major characters are introduced, along with their overall nature. Michael is the war hero and golden boy of the family, Don Vito is the feared but loved leader, Tom is the trusted counsellor, and Sonny is the hot-headed womanizer.

Many of these stereotypes introduced in the beginning of the film stay true. However, some of the characters break out of their molds, and essentially show the downfall that power can give rise to. One character, who’s role considerably changes throughout the film, is that of Don Vito, The Godfather. The narrative first introduces him as a respected and powerful man, who is not to be crossed with. However, as the film moves along his authority becomes greatly compromised, and is incapacitated for a great extent of time. Which causes him to lose his hold over people.

Although he does regain some of his influence after some time, he never fully reaches the great position he used to hold, and ultimately dies second in command. Although Don Vito does not hold a great majority of screen time, he is by far the most important character, due to the fact that his family’s lives are profoundly determined by his actions. When Don Corleone refuses to provide Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo with political/legal protection for importing heroin, this causes a huge ripple effect for the rest of the family, ultimately changing every single one of their lives.

One of the characters whose life is altered by Don Vito’s actions is Michael, the youngest son of the family. Michael in the beginning of the film is a bystander and an innocent, keeping well away from his father’s business. When an attempt on his father’s life puts him in the hospital, Michael vows to be the one to get revenge. Coppola carefully shows his progression from civilian, to the next in line to the Godfather, which he later becomes at the end of the film. Not only does Michael’s change of character signify his transformation to Godfather, but it also marks the point in the narrative that focuses on his perspective.

Once Michael commits his first hit for the family, the narrative begins to follow his new life in Sicily, and domination back in America. Not unlike his father, Michael gains sympathy from the audience, since his life has been turned upside down. Although Michael deserves to be in pain, due to the terrible deeds he committed, this is overlooked because of his undying loyalty to the family. Coppola loves to play with the contradiction that both men are criminals and family men. This makes it very hard to despise characters that the audience is so fond of.

Whether the narrative is following Don Vito or Michael Corleone, there is little room for women in The Godfather. Unlike their male counterparts, Coppolla spends little time developing female characters in film, and ultimately excludes them from most of the scenes. When a woman does appear in a scene however, their main function is to be nothing more then a prop for the men to use as they please. For example, Sonny uses and discards them, while ultimately ignoring his wife. Connie, the Don’s daughter, is so disregarded that her husband is not even allowed into the family business.

Michael doesn’t even respect her enough to tell her he killed her husband. It seems very ironic that Coppola would choose to do this, since a major narrative theme is family. However, the role of women in The Godfather, stays true to the time period and the ways of the typical Italian-American family. Instead of making a film about gangsters, Coppola decides to center the narrative around an Italian family. Overall, he does a superb job creating a film filled with an exceptional amount of violence, but with enough room for empathy for it’s lead characters.

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