Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blame the Parents

When watching the movie Citizen Kane a question that is on the mind of probably every viewer is why does Kane act the way that he does? Why does he launch a nationally printed newspaper? Why does he build an opera house for a wife that can't sing? Why does he try so hard to attain the love and respect of everyone that he meets and everyone he does not?

As a teenager, I feel very comfortable saying that it's all mom and dad's fault. When we discover Charles as a young boy in Colorado, he is the victim of a violent father. This is evident through his mother's emotionless demeanor, no doubt the result of years of abuse. She loves her son so much that she is willing to send him away to live with a distant relative just to ensure that the father can not continue his abuses. In that same scene, as the circumstances are being explained to little Charlie, he is quick to distance himself at the very sight of his patriarch. He takes comfort only in his mother's warm embrace just as that scene is ending. However, momma Kane is not blameless and the shutting of the window at the beginning of that scene should be a hint. Though she does help her son to a brighter future, with countless oppurtunities, she never again sees him. She still lives many years after Charles Foster Kane becomes a success. She could have tried to find him in all that time, but she did not. There must have been some underlying strife between them. If anyone wishes to make the argument that she was probably poor and could not afford to take a sabbatical to find her child, then why didn't Kane look for her? He had all the time and resources in the world and could have easily hunted her down even if she left that little town in which they once lived, which is unlikely. Kane only attempts to reconnect with his mother after she dies by going to a warehouse where old possesions were stored. Ms. Alexander is enough of a distraction to prevent him from going. It is hard to say who dislked whom, but all was not well between any of the Kane family.

Kane understood early on that he was not loved, so he decided to compensate for this by winning over everyone else. He does this in possibly the best way, by starting a chain of newspapers. This is a medium that just about everyone was using on a daily basis, so if he could keep the readers' attention then he would capture what he desired. The fact that the readers' care is fickle worked out beautifully for Kane becuase he would have to put out a new issue everyday. it is this lack of permanent popularity that drives him throughout his life. As time progresses with both of his wives, he goes from desiring and interested to bitter and unpleasant. This is because he has attained, in his mind, permanent love from them. With that kind of security, he would be able to focus on others' transient affection. I found it appropriate that he should bring a new woman (Susan Alexander) into his life just as another one (his mother) leaves.

Kane is eventually destroyed by Susan rejecting him for two reasons. First, a love that he thought certain was permanent is now gone and there is no blatantly obvious reason (like an affair) for it (at least to him there is not). Second, it is because he is quite old when it occurs. He is bald, fat, and decrepit to the point that he seldom leaves his chair, much less his home (hence why he fills it up with every imaginable pleasure). He understands that Susan was his last love because he does not have the vigor, in any sense, to go out and find another "singer" for himself.

He dies in a realization that since rosebud he has lived a loveless existance, one full of delusion and self centered power struggles. Such a film only strengthens that power of "daddy never hugged me!" It can lead a man on a life long journey for something so basic, yet so apparently unattainable. He never recieved the foundation for human empathy (only in the emotional sense, since he gives $25,000 checks to fired close friends and opera houses to wives with only distant fantasies of actually using it) so he struggled his entire life to express something he always had. His parents left quite the profound effect on him (as do all our parents). His mother gives him his emotionless caring nature that is present in the way he treats his close firends and his family. His father gave him his violent tendencies like hitting Susan or destroying her room after she leaves him. It all starts in the nurturing phase, when we are blank slates waiting to be bombarded by the world around us. No doubt that is where Kane's greatest strenght and weakness developed.

1 comment:

  1. A very ambitious essay. I think you might be reaching a bit with some of your conclusions, but the thought process that underlies it all is remarkable. Very thought-provoking post. I enjoyed it immensely.