In the film “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles plays Charles Foster Kane who never seems to truly grow up. He began at the Kane Boarding House, and a man by the name of Mr. Thatcher is brought to take him away to a better life. The reasons for his being taken away are not made entirely clear to us at all, however, it seems that Charlie’s mother wishes him to be taken to a better life. She also mentions that she wants to get Charlie away from his father, for reasons not explicitly stated. It is quite obvious that Charlie is quite content with his existence in Colorado, as we observe him playing quite gleefully with his sled in the falling snow.
Charlie Kane did not want to leave the boarding house. He is heartbroken with the news of his “trip” with Mr. Thatcher to a faraway place. He essentially is torn away from his childhood in wintry “wonderland” surroundings for a clearly more adult world. Especially to those of us who grew up in New England, snow reminds us of times of pure joy and connectedness, words most commonly associated with snow. He was more than happy with his sled.
Charlie is torn away from this pretty place, as cold and isolated as it is, to the city. He has to leave his sled, for purposes of this film affectionately named “Rosebud” behind to be buried in the snow. That next Christmas, Charlie is introduced to a new, classier sled. He wants nothing to do with it at all.
The name “Rosebud” may hold great significance. It has been suggested that the term “Rosebud” may be associated with the idea that Charlie Kane, at his sudden forced departure of the Colorado boarding house, was but a blossom about to bloom. As funny as this analogy may sound, it would seem to fit. Charlie was at a fragile age and a pivotal point in his childhood, where he was still defining himself and his personality. His mother, however, didn’t want Charlie to grow up in the environment he’d been born into.
As the rest of his life would seem to show us, young Charlie’s forced separation from his sled “Rosebud” essentially tore him out of his childhood and put him into a supposedly “better” situation surrounded by wealthy adults. It would seem, especially from the Christmas scene, that Charlie never really wanted this. He loved his Colorado home. He missed his mother. He wanted love. He got things, and he no doubt discovered, however inaccurately, that the more things he had, the more people “loved” him. He wasn’t put into a “better” situation. He was put where he didn’t belong.
Charlie constantly plays dress-up, making himself appear to be more of a giant than he truly is. He plays house when he later builds Xanadu, where everything is so much larger than it has to be. So much of it is impractical; there is so much that is unnecessary and extraneous to it: the private zoo, included. Xanadu was his play house. He built it as a monument to things because things were all he ever got, and all he understood.
Charles Kane spends the rest of his life trying to buy love. Obviously, this can’t be done, but he still desperately attempts to do so. He buys things for people, and gives them great deals of money, and builds monuments to people (namely the opera house for Susan Alexander.) This is the way in which he thinks love is given, through material things. He has so many material things. But, he has no real love. Everything is just a game for him, women included.
His second wife, Susan Alexander was nothing more than a doll to him, really never an actual person, as evidenced by the room he “keeps” her in, which is clearly a child’s room, complete with a doll with her likeness sitting up on the bed. When she leaves him, Kane exclaims “Don’t do this to me!” as if she were a pet disobeying him. He believes he is the victim of everything.
Sadly, in a sense, Kane is correct. He never chose this existence; it was forced upon him by a supposedly “well-meaning” mother. His mother’s greatest mistake was letting him go at the wrong time. When his mother sent him away, Charlie never found another true family, only things. He got money, so much material stuff, but he never really got what he needed: loving people to care for him. He obviously didn’t get care. He got things, and they did absolutely nothing for him. He died a pitiful character. Charlie never grew up.
It is sad that the film must end with the burning of “Rosebud” (which apparently had been sent to him and put away when his mother passed away) and that the reporters were so ignorant to pass over it. You wonder what Kane would’ve been if he and the sled hadn’t been so unceremoniously split and Charlie hadn’t been taken off by Mr. Thatcher. Charlie Kane never grew up because he wasn’t allowed to, and by the age they sent him away, his connection to the world of white, white snow and his childish companionship with his sled ended up being a traumatic experience for him, and he never truly matured into a man.
Mentally and emotionally, Charlie wasn’t allowed to fully blossom. His mentality would never progress beyond that of a child. Kane dies with the snow-globe in his hand, a final reminder to him of the past, and the possibility that if he’d stayed back there he may’ve been a simple, but a far more content and happy person. On his death bed, he no doubt longs for another chance at the childhood he was torn away from. He, therefore, cries out in vain: “Rosebud!”
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