Since the beginning of the Industrial Age, Americans have idealized the journey towards economic success. One thing people do not realize, however, is that that journey is not the same for every individual. For Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), the main character of Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles, the path towards riches and a fulfilled life is being well liked. He serves to please others. He strives for that attention. This view cost him his happiness in the end. In this man’s rise and fall through prosperity, Welles shows the futility of striving solely for likeability.
The movie starts out in Kane’s childhood home, before his life changed forever. His family is visited by a rich bank owner named Jerry Thompson (William Alland) who, for unknown reasons, wants Kane to grow up as his own. He ages, learning the trade of investing and owning businesses. He eventually becomes the owner of the New York Inquirer, an old newspaper ...view middle of the document...
She also ends up leaving him, and he dies alone in his palace full of his thousands of possessions. The last scene shows workers throwing his sleigh from when he was a boy into an incinerator.
If one observes Charles Foster Kane’s life, they will find a common cause of his actions: attention. Kane’s main goal in life is to be liked. He kept the newspaper company so he could be on the people’s side, so that he could be liked. Later in the movie, he creates fake headlines to bring more views to the paper, as well as hiring his competition’s crew. He does not care to bring honesty to the people, as he insists when he first comes into owning the newspaper. He wants to control people, to gain massive influence.
This wish for control is also seen in his love life. His first wife is Emily Monroe Norton (Ruth Warrick), the niece of the current President of the United States. This connection itself gives Kane more power, even an opportunity to become governor. One can even say that is only reason he marries her: for influence, not love. When Emily starts to realize this, their marriage continually deteriorates until they are hardly speaking at all. Kane’s second love interest is Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore). The first time they met, he proceeds to control her. He insists that she sing professionally, even when she argues against it. Their relationship is uncovered, causing Emily to get a divorce. Kane marries Susan soon after. However, it is the same cycle over again. He tries to control everything, she gets annoyed, the marriage deteriorates. After he builds Xanadu, the palace, she is so fed up that she leaves him as well. His desperation for attention and control costs him a family.
Citizen Kane shows why one should not wish for attention and influence alone. If one tries to take full control of their life, it will go out of control. It is happiness and being content with life that is important. If that includes backpacking across the world, then that is that. If it includes making a business flourish, then that is right too. Everyone’s perspective on success is different. But the key to why Kane’s view on success did not work is because it was not his true version of success.