The Godfather and Sicily

Power, Honor, Family, and Evil

By Raymond Angelo Belliotti

Subjects: Philosophy, Film Studies, Italian American Studies, Criminology, Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series in Italian/American Culture
Hardcover : 9781438484310, 220 pages, July 2021
Paperback : 9781438484303, 220 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents



1. The Passions and Limitations of Honor

2. The Sicilian Family Order

3. Power, Destiny, and Evil

4. Repentance, Atonement, and Redemption

Appendix A: Summarizing The Godfather

Appendix B: Summarizing The Godfather II

Appendix C: Summarizing The Godfather III

About the Author

Offers a distinctive interpretation of The Godfather as a novel and film sequence.


In this interdisciplinary work, Raymond Angelo Belliotti presents an interpretation of The Godfather as, among other things, a commentary on the transformation of personal identity within the Sicilian and Italian immigrant experience. The book explores both the novel and the film sequence in terms of an existential conflict between two sets of values that offer competing visions of the world: on the one hand, a nineteenth-century Sicilian perspective grounded in honor and the accumulation of power within a culturally specific family order; and on the other, a twentieth-century American perspective that celebrates individualism and commercial success. Analyzing concepts such as honor, power, will to power, respect, atonement, repentance, forgiveness, and a meaningful life, Belliotti applies these analyses to the cultural understandings transported to America by nineteenth-century Italian immigrants, casting fresh light on Old World allegiances to l'ordine della famiglia (the family order), la via vecchia (the old way), and the patriarchal ideal of uomo di pazienza (the man of patience), as well as the Sicilian code of honor. The two sets of values—Old World Sicilian and twentieth-century American—coalesce uneasily in the same cultural setting, and their conflict is irresolvable.

Raymond Angelo Belliotti is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at State University College at Fredonia. His many books include Power: Oppression, Subservience, and Resistance and Machiavelli's Secret: The Soul of the Statesman, both also published by SUNY Press.


"Raymond Belliotti's philosophical reading of The Godfather is a fresh approach to a classic text and a welcome addition to its interpretive frameworks." — Italian American Review

"Belliotti's study once again underscores all the contradictions, and cautionary tales that Mario Puzo's novel and Coppola's cinematic genius brought into a world that has never stopped reading about and viewing the Corleones and their offspring. The questions he lays out about family, honor, and power are ever before us as Americans of all backgrounds." — Chris Messenger, author of "The Godfather" and American Culture: How the Corleones Became "Our Gang"

"This book helps to fill a gaping hole in that space at the intersection of American studies, Italian American studies, film studies, literature, and cultural studies where The Godfather (the novel and the film trilogy) resides." — John Gennari, author of Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge