Godfather Moral Downfall

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Critics agree that in The Godfather, the protagonist, Michael Corleone (Mikey) changes from a person with moral principles and a legitimate role in society to a cold-blooded mobster. In the beginning of the movie, Mikey shows his reluctance to involve himself in the Mafia when he tells his girlfriend, Kaye, about his father’s (Vito Corleone) business methods of coercion and says he will never be like his family. However, as Mikey’s involvement with the family business increases his violent tendencies become more apparent as he volunteers to murder a rival thug and a corrupt police officer. In the final scene, Mikey kills his brother-in-law, and when confronted by Kaye, he looks her in the eyes and claims no role in the murder. At this point, he completely transforms from a military hero and legitimate citizen, to a Mafia don capable of lies and murder. While Mikey’s transformation is quite obvious, the reason for this change in moral behavior is a more complex issue. The change in ethical behavior is a result of Mikey’s decision to become more involved with his family, consequently putting him in an environment that promotes immoral behavior. Michael Corleone’s problem is an internal conflict between loyalty to family and moral principle. After an assassination attempt on Mikey's father, Mikey decides to return to the family and assume leadership, even though he disapproves of Mafia business practices. The strength of family ties, ingrained in Mikey as a youth, influenced his choice. Decisions in choosing between right and wrong should not be confined to just a matter of the individual, but a response influenced by the family. Psychologists feel that the rearing of a child during early years plays a particularly important role in influencing behavior throughout a child's life. So, certain choices simply will not be made due to values established at an early age, since cognitive moral development restricts "free will" to some degree. Obviously, growing up in a Mafia family would put Mikey in an environment where he experiences a tainted view of right and wrong. Also, in the family situation, pressures from the group (the family) often influence the individual's behavior making the individual's decisions more difficult. Therefore, someone not taught independence will have trouble standing up against the family. For example, Mikey holds a notion o... ... middle of paper ... ...uot;no regrets." Mikey only nods in agreement showing his acceptance of his new position. Mikey’s moral downfall is most likely a result of genetic influences, coupled with his current situation in a Mafia environment. His genetic makeup prohibits him from withstanding the pressures and influences of Mafia life. His violent behavior in the killings coincide with the Corleone notion of loyalty, and family business practices. Possible inherited defects in the Corleone family, such as those found in the five generations of Dutch men stated previously, fit well with Mafia methods of coercion and getting rid of competition. Also, the fact that Mikey feels responsible in helping with the protection of his father, and his expected role in the matter, affect his decision about involvement in the family business. Since the viewer only sees a short span of Mikey’s life, it is difficult to predict if Mikey will ever deviate from his current unethical practices. Theory suggests that he will change because altering personalities permanently is nearly impossible. However, only by viewing subsequent parts of Mikey’s life can we know for sure if he will return to moral standards of living.
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