This is from M. Puzo's The godfather.

On the night before the shooting of Don Corleone, his strongest and most loyal and most fearest retainer prepared to meet with the enemy. Luca Brasi had made contact with the forces of Sollozzo several months before. He had done so on the orders of Don Corleone himself. He had done so by frequinting the nightclubs controlled by the Tattaglia Family and by taking up with one of their top call girls. In bed with this call girl he grumbled about how he was held down in the Corleone Family, how his worth was not recognized.

I didn't get the point of the last sentence, especially the part that I emphasized. Hold sth down means to keep something at low level. Was Luca Brasi one of the most important person in the Corleone's bussiness? I think so.

  • This is LitCrit rather than language - but Luca Brasi, though a respected and feared killer, is merely a personal attendant on Don Corleone, not a caporegime. It would be plausible for him to complain of not holding a senior management position and not having his own crew. Dec 6 '14 at 5:21
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about literary motive and analysis, not language. Dec 6 '14 at 5:21
  • I think it is about understanding the idiom "held down" not necessarily a literary analysis.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 6 '14 at 13:21

Luca Brasi was certainly an important person in the Corleone family. But the Don Corleone wanted to get Luca Brasi into the gang of Sollozzo (as his man). So obviously Luca will have to tell Sollozzo a strong reason for leaving Don Corloene and joining him. Now what should Luca tell Sollozzo that will convey his sincerity and genuineness ? He needs a very strong reason.

Let's first see the meaning of hold down

To hold someone down is 'to prevent someone from developing or making progress or being successful etc.'

So the sentence 'how he was held down in the Corleone Family, how his worth was not recognized.'

It means there are people in the Corleone family who don't let him do things his way and that's why he is unable to make progress there.


Brasi is feigning discontent to trick the call girl, and indirectly, the people she works for, into thinking that he would be willing to be disloyal to the Corleone family. When Tattaglia thinks he can use Brasi to his own advantage, Brasi has succeeded in infiltrating the Tattaglias.

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