In “Citizen Kane”, Orson Welles shows the viewer how an adult’s life can be tormented by their divested childhood. In his movie, Welles portrays Kane to be a man with the world in his hands yet he possesses nothing of sentimental value. Not being able to appreciate the people who surround him the way that they appreciate him, Kane turns to money and power to fulfill the love and affection he didn’t receive as a child. Welles portrays Kane’s robbed childhood, his vanity, and his hunger for power as the cause to Kane’s failed relationships and his lonely death. Shortly after the beginning of the movie, Welles uses symbolism to expose how Kane’s childhood innocence and purity had been taken from him at an early age. In this scene, Kane is out playing in the pure and white snow, which can be interpreted as Kane enjoying his innocent years in the essence of purity that comes with childhood. When his parents, along with Thatcher, go outside to inform him about his trip, Kane uses his sled as a defensive tool against Thatcher. This can be a reflection on why Kane never accepted Thatcher’s attempts at discipline and guidelines.
Kane saw Thatcher as the person who deprived him of his childhood and took him away from his most prized possession, which was Rosebud, his sled. Towards the end of the scene, the sled is left out in the snow for years as the snow begins to pile up on it; this could be seen as a metaphorical correlation to Kane leaving his innocence and the purity of his childhood to become a man with a polluted soul who is ruled by money and power. As Kane grows up to become a man of wealth and power, many of his personality issues can be traced back to his childhood upbringing. The viewers are given an insight to the controlling and manipulative person Kane is when they come across the scene where Kane walks into the Inquirer and tells the editor-in-chief that he is literally going to live in his office. Because he couldn’t control his unsatisfactory childhood upbringing, Kane grew up to be an awfully controlling man. His controlling personality then led him to publish subjects that would only bring him attention. As a child who was taken away from his parents at only eight years old, he wanted all the attention possible, hence the deceptive subjects he would publish. Kane’s childhood lacked the essentials of parental love and attention, which later transformed him into an egocentric, power-hungry monster.
Possessing both money and power, Kane became obsessed with himself; the more power he obtained, the more he felt in need of it. At the age of twenty-five, Kane buys the New York Inquirer without even the slightest clue on how to run a newspaper business. One can thus determine that Kane would use his money to help him gain a voice. Kane never cared about his money, or the spending of, because he had plenty of it. What Kane really wanted was to affect the people. His original plan, when taking over the Inquirer, was to help and become the voice of the poor and underprivileged, but he quickly forgot about his promises, as he continually grew more and more corrupt by printing stories that would only get him attention. His hunger for power became bigger than him when he ran for Governor of New York and would print insulting cartoons of his opponent. Kane started out with a plan that would affect the people in a positive way but consequently became a highly unlikeable man who would only think about the power his money could bring to him. Not only was Kane a man who wished for more power but also he was a man who was also ruled by vanity.
Throughout the movie, Welles interprets Kane’s vanity by showing the viewer how Kane would use his controlling personality to make sure all his surroundings were nothing but perfect. A good example of this is when Leland writes a newspaper article about Susan’s mediocre singing skills and Kane reads it. After he reads Leland’s notice, he is determined to make Susan a better singer so he forces her to train and perform in numerous cities. Because of his vanity, Kane is concerned with the public’s opinion of his wife. He does not want to be known as the man who married a singer with amateur singing skills. Welles also does a magnificent job in portraying Kane’s vanity in the scene where Susan leaves him and all Kane is truly worried about is all the guests in Xanadu who might witness her departure. How he appears to the public is much more important to him than the fact that his own wife is leaving him. As a man who was drunk on his own power and ruled by his vanity, Kane failed to see how much he would hurt the people who were closest to him, especially his second wife, Susan. Ever since he met her, the first sign of his complicated personality was shown when he demanded her to sing for him. In that scene, the viewer could foresee the kind of controlling and demanding spouse Kane would be.
Throughout their relationship, one could notice how he would treat Susan more as an object than his wife. By forcing her to perform and become a better singer, he was treating her as one of his statues. His statues were beautifully sculpted and that is what he wanted Susan to be. A beautiful woman who lacked a beautiful voice was not an option for the wife of Charles Foster Kane. As Susan grew tired of Kane being absent most of the time and being forced to live in their home as one of his many statues, she decided to leave him. Kane always treated people as if they were his property and Susan was no exception. When she informed Kane of her intention to abandon him, he said to her, “you can’t leave me” which goes to show how he thought of Susan as one of his statues. Kane’s statues would literally and physically never leave him, which is why he was shocked by Susan’s decision. When she does leave and Kane can’t do anything about it, he becomes full of anger and destroys Susan’s room. For a man who was just left by his wife, his anger towards her is also a big sign to the viewer that Kane only saw her as his property. Because of so many failed relationships throughout his life, a man of endless wealth and power ends up in his deathbed alone with no one to care for him.
Throughout the movie, as Thompson goes on a search to figure out the meaning behind Kane’s last words before his death, the viewer is exposed to the many reasons why Kane died a lonely man. His relationship with Thatcher never developed further because Kane always saw him as the person who robbed him from sharing his childhood years with his family. The friendship he had with his closest friend ended when he fired him because of a simple statement that offended his vanity. The relationship with his first wife not only ended because of his infidelity but also because of his need for more power. Kane would spend more time at the Inquirer than with Emily, which made the relationship bound to terminate. Last but not least, his relationship with Emily was a complete failure because he saw her as an object as opposed to his wife. Every person who would get emotionally close to Kane would eventually end up leaving him. As a result of his big ego, Kane never managed to develop relationships with those who surrounded him therefore, the only company he had while lying in his deathbed was a snow globe and his childhood memories.
As one can conclude, because of his miserable childhood, Kane grew up to lead a life full of luxury and riches but he lacked the true meaning of life- to live. Money only bought him objects and power but never bought him true love of any kind. His last words were in reference to an object that he owned as a child and that goes to show that his only happy memories were back when he lacked the fortune he now had. Kane’s robbed childhood, vanity, and his hunger for power were the reasons why Kane lived such a lonely and unfulfilled life up until the day he died.