Although Kay Adams, who becomes Kay Corleone, in both the novel and film adaptation of The Godfather is initially portrayed as naive and dedicated to Michael, the novel has her becoming increasingly submissive and complicit in Michael’s criminal activities, while the film shows her as growing an increasing distrust of her husband.

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The initial romance between Kay and Michael, as depicted in both the film and the novel, is portrayed as both wanting to not follow in Vito’s footsteps. Thematically, Kay represents Michael’s connection to mainstream American culture: she is not Italian, which is made distinct in how she is physically described to emphasize her “whiteness” (Cardon 109), in order to make her seem exotic to Michael. This would match the physical appearance of Diane Keaton, who plays the role of Kay in the film. The novel includes scenes with Kay’s family, which are not included in the film; these scenes are used as a foil to Michael’s family, with Kay’s family being depicted as somewhat naive and trusting of their daughter. Kay is blindly devoted to Michael in both the book and the film; however, the book has her remaining devoted to Michael, even when he is flees to Italy, while the film has her visibly showing hesitation. In the film, when Michael returns from Italy, Kay questions Michael about his role in the family business as they walk down the street. She has become aware of his role in the family business, and while the book shows her accepting this fully because of her blind devotion to Michael, we can see her increasing hesitation in the film version about what she may be getting herself involved in.

Kay’s main foil in both the book and the film is Apollonia, who becomes Michael’s first wife. As foils in the book, they are representative of different cultures: Kay is an American, and Apollonia is a peasant girl in Italy. In the film, they are foils in regard to their relationship to Michael: Apollonia is completely submissive, and while Kay is submissive to some extent, there is visible resistance to Michael’s activities. The reason this works differently in the books and the film is because in the book, both Kay and Apollonia are completely submissive to Michael and fully accept this role. In the film, Kay is submissive, but she does not fully accept this role in that she can be seen as growing an increasing distrust of Michael.

Thematically, Kay works differently in both the book and the film as well; in the film, she becomes another possession of Michael. Because she is distinctly American, without Italian heritage, this can be symbolized as Michael’s intent to exert dominance in American society. She converts to Catholicism and dotes over their child, which shows how she is willing to submit herself to Michael completely. In the film, while she still represents this elements, Coppola chooses to end the film with a shot of Kay being shut out of her husband’s business, when the film closes with the door being closed to prevent her from seeing the room, while she folds laundry. This highlights her domestic role, but it also emphasizes how Michael is shutting out the one moral character in his life, Kay. The book does not emphasize Kay as a moral character because she simply becomes another possession of Michael; however, her resistance to his criminal activities, in showing at least her displeasure of it, would seem to emphasize her morality in the film. Because of this moral connotation, Michael having the door close on her shows how he is rejecting the last remaining moral aspect of his own life, through symbolic fashion.