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Near the end of the novel The Godfather, Michael Corleone takes his vengeance on the other families, as well as those who betrayed him. Before this, though, he cleans house, setting up a secret regime for Rocco Lampone, promising Clemenza and Tessio their own Families in a year, and ousting Tom Hagen from the position as consigliere. Tom, naturally, feels hurt, but several months later has this bit of dialogue with Michael:

The Corleone Family is a lot stronger than anybody thinks, but I hoped to make it foolproof.” He smiled at Hagen. “I guess you’ve figured everything out by now.”

Hagen nodded. “It wasn’t hard. Except why you wanted me out of the action. But I put on my Sicilian hat and I finally figured that too.”

Tom must be more Sicilian than me because I can't figure it out. Why did Michael remove Tom Hagen from the Corleone business?

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One complaint against Tom was that "he's not even Italian, let alone Sicilian." Worse, he also had blond hair and a pale face, not dark hair and skin.

Vito made him "consigliere" because he performed a key function, as a lawyer. Vito did, in fact, want to move his, and other families, in the direction of greater respectability. Tom would have been the "point man" in such an effort. In that context, his "blond hair and a pale face," was an advantage. At the end of Vito's life, his family owned:

"tremendously valuable real estate in midtown New York, whole office buildings. It owned, through fronts, partnerships in two Wall Street brokerage houses, pieces of banks on Long Island, partnerships in some garment center firms, all this in addition to its illegal operations in gambling."

But existential threats (the rise of other families) forced Michael to move in the opposite direction, of acting in an "extralegal" manner, just to survive. In that kind of a situation, you need the most "Sicilian" person around, both in looks and in manner. Tom finally figured out that he was not that man.

In Chapter 30, such a Sicilian, Alberto Neri, a Michael choice, was described as follows:

"He was immensely strong...people were afraid of him because of that strength and his unbending attitude toward what was right and wrong... If he disagreed with a group's attitude or an individual's opinion, he kept his mouth shut or brutally spoke his contradiction. He never gave a polite agreement. He also had a true Sicilian temper and his rages could be awesome."

Michael was also that man, arguably more so than his father. In Chapter 9, it was Michael who "realized that Sonny and Tom were off-center on this guy Sollozzo,[who later killed Sonny] they were still underrating him..." [emphasis added].

And Chapter 29:

"But he was not to get his necessary year because fate itself took a stand against him, and in the most surprising fashion. For it was the Godfather, the great Don himself, who failed Michael Corleone."

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  • Can you provide some book quotes to support this analysis? This could be a great answer if backed up with some solid arguments (doesn't have to be absolute proof, just enough to show that this is a sensible/plausible interpretation based on evidence in the book).
    – Rand al'Thor
    Apr 16 '20 at 21:06
  • @Randal'Thor: Done.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 16 '20 at 22:22
  • Is it possible that Hagen was perceived as too humane a person to be involved in the extensive violence the family engaged in? Sonny explicitly told him that he was not a "war-time consigliere."
    – releseabe
    May 24 at 23:50

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