Crime StoryrnThe Godfather as PoHtical MetaphorrnBehind every great fortune there is a erime,” wrote Honorernde Balzae in a cynical sentiment that Mario Puzornchose as the epigraph of The Godfather. The hne at once estabHshesrnthe metaphor that dominates the book as well as thernfilms and carries us into the essentially Machiavellian worldviewrnthat per’ades them and to which most of its Italian-Anrericanrncharacters subscribe. If “great fortunes” may be read as “humanrnsociety” itself, then the history of crime becomes thernhistory of society. The Godfather thus begins with not nrerely anrnanalogy between the warfare and power struggles among criminalsrnon the one hand, and the more normal civil relationshipsrnof legitimate society on the other, but also with an actual genealog}’rnthat traces the latter to their origins in force and fraud.rnWlien Tom Hagen, consigUore to Don Vito Corlcone, urgesrnhis boss and foster parent to accept the offer of a parhiershiprnwith the Sicilian gangster Sollozzo for peddling drugs, he citesrnthe power practices among real governments. If the Corleonernfamily doesn’t accept Sollozzo’s bargain, Hagen argues, it willrneventually be overwhelmed by the rival families. “It’s just likerncountries,” he says. “If they arm, we have to arm. If they becomernstronger economically, they become a threat to us.” Therncapo regime Clemenza, explaining to Michael Corleone why arngang war is necessary, draws his own analog)’ with pre-WorldrnWar II diplomacy, in a scene from both book and film. “Thesernthings have to happen every ten years or so,” muses the corpulentrnkiller. ‘Ton gotta stop them at the beginning. Like theyrnshoulda stopped Hitler at Munich, they never should have letrnhim get away with that, they were just asking for big troublernwhen they let him get away with that.”rnYet the clearest such analogy between criminal and legiti-rnSamuel Francis is the Washington editor for Chronicles. Arnlonger version of this article first appeared in the October 1992rnissue.rnmate society is voiced by Michael Corleone himself in Part I ofrnthe film series. Explaining to his innocent fiancee Kay Adamsrnwhy the work of his father, one of the most powerful gangstersrnin the country, is not as sinister as it seems, Michael tells her,rn”My father is no different than any other powerful man—anyrnman who’s responsible for other people, like a senator or a President.”rnIt is a comparison that Kay, daughter of a Baptist clergymanrnfrom New Hampshire, at once rejects. “Do you know howrnnaive you sound?” she asks in the naively preachy way suchrnwomen affect. “Senators and Presidents don’t have menrnkilled” —a line that, when the movie is shown in crowdedrnAmerican theaters, never fails to collapse the audience into derisivernlaughter.rnIf the premise of the novel is that the practices of normal orrnlegitimate human society are analogous to those of criminalrngangs, it is hardly surprising that the ghost of Maehiavelli lurksrnthroughout the novel and films, since the view of political powerrnas essentially extralegal and extramoral is a fundamentalrntheme of Machiavelli’s political thought. . . . As in Machiavelli’srnthought, the Prince is not only above the law but the sourcernof law and all social and political order, so in the Corleone universe,rnthe Don is “responsible” for his family, a responsibilityrnthat authorizes him to do virtually anything except violate thernobligations of the family bond. Michael’s description of his fatherrnis not only Machiavellian but also virtually Nietzsehean.rn”My father,” Michael tells Kay,rnis a businessman trying to provide for his wife and childrenrnand those friends he might need someday in a timernof trouble. He doesn’t accept the rules of the society wernlive in because those rules woidd have condemned himrnto a life not suitable to a man like himself, a man of extraordinaryrnforce and character. What you have to understandrnis that he considers himself the equal of all thosern16/CHRONICLESrnrnrn