Family Life in Italian Culture

The Soprano Family (Bottom: Meadow and Anthony, Jr. (AJ); Top: Carmela and Anthony (Tony))

At the center of every Italian American is the core belief of a strong, loving family. Family serves as the heart of every Italian-American, as during the decades of mass immigration to the United States, Italian-Americans faced harsh treatment from Americans, and the strength of families was pertinent to survival (Pozzetta, 30-33). Traditional family structure is described as being “the realms of domesticity and family intimacy have been the most significant venues in which an Italian American identity has developed” (Cinotto, 19). In other words, the character of Italian American families was formed through the strong bond of Italian families, which is how traditions and values developed.

These family ideals far from lack within The Sopranos. Loyalty to the family is a value that can not be compromised in the Soprano family, especially due to Tony’s organized crime activities. It is important to understand that Tony’s “associates” at “work” are mostly members of his family. Junior Soprano, who is “the boss,” is Tony’s uncle, while Christopher Moltisanti, who is a “capo,” is one of Tony’s distant cousins. Upon release from prison and needing to find means to support his family, Tony Blundetto, another one of Tony’s cousin, is offered a job to rejoin organized crime. To the Sopranos, keeping family close is the only option, because they are the least likely to “snitch” or to reveal to the federal government the different operations taking place within the crime family.

Traditional structure heavily focused on the influence of religion. A majority of Italian Americans are Roman Catholics, which is true about the characters in this show. A heavy emphasis is placed on Roman Catholic traditions, as many of the show’s main events occur at gatherings that celebrated first holy communions, confirmations, marriages, and even funerals. According to Velazquez, ” The correspondence between religious rituals and their effect on gender roles, family structure and family business are pertinent to not only understanding The Sopranos but to understanding the Mafioso Italian-American family structure” (Velazquez, 1). In other words, in order to understand the dynamics of this family, it is extremely important to understand the sanctity of the Roman Catholic religious traditions and values, as Tony Soprano expected his family to follow these principles. However, it can be said that the family, nor Tony himself, found it almost impossible to resist the temptations of straying from these traditions.