The story of ‘The Godfather’ traces the lives of father and son, and broadly – a family. The story tells how both father and son, through their own unique experiences, go out of their way to avoid a life of crime, and shy away from any glorification of it. Both accommodate their aggressors, and are comfortable being relegated to the sidelines as long as their families are unharmed.
However they live their lives in the midst of crime, and sooner or later when they are confronted with tough decisions involving the survival of their families, they fight back.
Vito Andolini has to flee his hometown of Corleone in Sicily because of a family feud with a local don. Vito is the only member of the family left alive after the feud and flees to New York. Vito is an introspective man, who makes a living for himself in an Italian locality where crime is part of society. Unable to support his growing family after losing a job, Vito is slowly introduced into a life of theft and smuggling by a friend. He commits his first murder after being extorted by a local mafiosi.
Though he is suspected of the killing by his community, he is never openly confronted with it, mainly because of the community’s collective relief at being free of the hoodlum. Vito’s legend grows more when he goes out of his way to reason rather than muscle his way out of tough situations. His patient nature makes people approach him with their troubles and they seek him out for help to solve their problems. He becomes known as the Godfather in this manner.
His criminal enterprise continues to flourish with illegal gambling, union rackets, smuggled alcohol and extortion raking in money. Eventually his friend-circle widens and soon he has the police, judges and politicians under his circle of influence.
Vito has four children – three boys (Santino, Fredo and Michael) and a girl (Connie). Santino or Sonny as he is better known is the eldest. His vicious temper quickly gains him a place in his father’s business but also proves to be his undoing. Fredo is timid and does not seem to find a place in the family business despite trying. Michael is the most recalcitrant of the sons and prefers to be left alone to determine his own life. He finds himself at odds with what his father does for a living and seems to find comfort in the life he has come to know away from home at college. He joins the military against his father’s wishes.
Michael is plunged into the core of his father’s business when he chooses to avenge a failed assassination attempt on his father. He kills the would-be assassin and a complicit police officer, and is forced to flee to Sicily to escape the heat.
While their father recovers from his wounds, Santino takes control of the family business and Michael experiences the life his ancestors did while he is in exile. Michael is forced to return home on Santino’s untimely and violent death to assist his father.
Eventually Michael is at the helm of his father’s vast criminal empire. The same enterprise that he was once ashamed of and avoided.