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Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather

Francis Ford Coppola's film The Godfather can serve as an artifact for ethnographic study, presenting as it does a full and detailed picture of a social subgroup in American society. The plot of the film focuses on the criminality of members of this subgroup, but in a broader sense the story of the Corleone family reflects a number of other forces in American society--the immigrant experience, the maintenance of certain Old World social structures in the New World, and a family organization that is different from the prevailing structure in American society at large. The film tells the story of a specific family in a way that reflects the experience of a large number of people from a similar background at this particular time in American history.

The story of The Godfather derives from a novel by Mario Puzo, an Italian-American familiar with this milieu and with the experience of Italian immigrants and their descendants. Director Francis Ford Coppola is also an American of Italian descent and similarly understands the family and community structures of this population. Of course, the film was criticized because it told the story of a narrow fringe of the Italian community, the criminal fringe, so that many may have believed that the film was presenting this fringe group as the norm. The criminality of this family is not presented as the norm for Italian Americans at all but as the "business" in which this family operates. The family structures and social relations of the family, however, do reflect aspects of the Italian-American experience for a first- and even second-generation immigrant family such as this one.

The story of The Godfather is the story of the Corleone family, headed by Don Corleone, also the head of a crime "family" made up of his own sons and other Italian-American men. The family ostensibly owns an importing firm that sells olive oil, but the real business of the family is found in criminal enterprise...

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Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:13, December 02, 2020, from