Love and Vengeance

The intersecting themes of family and violence in The Godfather bring up interesting moral questions.  Don Corleone seems to see himself as an honorable man who values family above all else.  He shows his deep family values by involving his family in a feud against another family that gets various members of both families killed.  He is the godfather to many, and gladly includes his extended family in the cycle of killing as well.  The beneficiaries of Don Corleone’s family values are indoctrinated into a seemingly inescapable cycle of irrational violence.  Instead of protecting and supporting his family like his title suggests, Godfather Corleone is dooming them all to kill and be killed.


They're all doomed.
They’re all doomed.

Michael, Don Corleone’s son, tried to stay away from the violent world that his father created for him, but ended up getting sucked into a plot to avenge an attack on his dad.  Though Don Corleone hoped that Michael could dissociate from the family “business,” Michael ends up getting involved in defense of Don Corleone’s honor.  Each new generation gets sucked into the violence when love takes the form of vengeance. And the cycle propels itself forward as both sides are constantly seeking revenge.  Can’t they understand that a Corleone death is just as tragic to the Corleone family as a Barzini death is to the Barzini family? Both sides are living in constant fear and tragedy for no reason that I can see (except that it makes a great film).

To me, this is a film about the irrationality of violence.  The sides are arbitrarily assigned; you are born Corleone or Barzini. In the Crips hood or the Bloods hood. Israel or Palestine. Neither side is inherently better than the other. But both sides are convinced of the other’s overwhelming inferiority. Both hate each other with a passionate fury.  So they attack back and forth to prove that they are indeed valuable human beings. Stop and think. If you kill my kid it will cause me immense suffering.  If I kill your kid it will cause you immense suffering. We are both suffering immensely! How does this make any sense!? Killing is unproductive and cyclical.  I hate Don Corleone for equating murder with family love, but I applaud the film for illuminating the irrationality of violence so vividly.