Is the godfather about Emersonian self-reliance? Michael starts off as part of a recognised, authoritative institution. His actions in the war are celebrated because he is part of that institution. He moves towards radical individualism and is forced to make sacrifices and decide for himself what is truly important to him. Is he just moving from one institution to another? In the army, his actions are determined by an external authority but as head of his family he determines right and wrong with an internal code of ethics. What then are we to understand from the shot of Michael utterly alone and emotionally dead?