What did Don Corleone mean by “friendship”?

Friendship was a marvelous term for Vito.

Vito had many friends-family and old acquaintances whom Vito was happy to help without a second thought. The novel had Vito giving money to the son of an old friend-he was short on cash in his pocket so he borrowed from Tom. This demonstrates that Vito “went into debt” to help his friends. Ok it wasn’t actually debt because Vito had lots of money in reality, but the looks made a great impression.

There were others who became Vito’s friends because they needed his help. Bonasera wanted revenge on the boys who beat up his daughter. He never asked Vito for anything before. Vito made Bonasera call him Godfather and show respect before he agreed to help. Vito refused money and held the favor over Bonasera instead. It was just in case he needed his help one day.

There were rivals who were Vito’s friends because no one wanted to cross Vito and be an enemy. Justice was swift. Vito had no love for Barzini or Tataligia but stayed friendly because no one wanted an all out war. Vito forego vengeance for Sonny to keep the peace and make sure his son Michael came home safely. Of course, Michael wasn’t under obligation to hold the terms of peace but that was a different story.

Being Vito’s friend meant you were cared for and protected by him. The question was you his friend out of love, respect or fear. Vito’s friendship meant you were safe from others.

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