The Meaning of Family

“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
– Don Corleone to Johnny Fontane in The Godfather Part I

In this scene, Johnny, one of the Don’s godchildren, visits the Don at the Don’s daughter’s wedding asking for help. The Don inquires about Johnny’s family life, and Johnny reveals that he really hasn’t spent much time with them at all. (Granted, Johnny is divorced but had two daughters with his ex.)

Johnny is in show business and he still horses around with young starlets and gets wasted when he can. He hasn’t “grown-up.” So I guess, in this context, the Don means that Johnny is not a real man because he doesn’t take life seriously, as one does when he has a family to look after.

Some parents who neglect their families are just very dedicated to their work. Is that a bad thing? Are they not “real men/women”? I think the Don is also trying to say that those who don’t make family a priority aren’t living virtuously. His emphasis on the value of family makes me feel like the mafia as better people. Anyway, I think if one decides to start a family and have children, then he or she should already know that a family is a HUGE part of one’s life and therefore requires a lot of time. If work is too consuming and he doesn’t want to give up some time of work for the family, then he should not have a family.

Personally, family is one of the most important parts of life. Some people don’t have families, like Tom Hagen, but they meet people and find those that can act as their families. Family keeps us going. No matter what, they are there. If a father puts power-hunger above family, missing dance recitals or award ceremonies for extra meetings and additional work, then he is not a real man. He doesn’t value those who value him most. He doesn’t appreciate what he will always have. He does not see his impact on those who think he can lift the universe (-yes, I used to think my dad was so strong he could life the universe at one point in my life). He is too selfish, and family is not an area to be selfish in.

As I write this, I feel guilty of my own selfishness. I am terrible at keeping in contact with my family since college. It’s not that I don’t value them or love them, but I get so distracted and busy. But that is a totally different situation than a father who LIVES in the same house as his children and wife and still neglects them.

In short, I think the moral of the message is that those who don’t value their family are selfish and not virtuous.

1 thought on “The Meaning of Family

  1. This post is so heartbreaking and convicting. I totally agree that family is the most important thing in a person’s life, whether it is your blood family, your dorm family, or your best friend family. A person can have multiple families, but each one is sacred. Family cannot be forsaken. You always have to make sure you are aware that you have a core of people who you can rely on and who rely on you, and when you sacrifice them for work or power, you are defiling the perfection of family.

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