A wealthy newspaper publisher who is a controlling manipulator, Charles Foster Kane, also known as ‘Citizen Kane’ lives in luxury, but is only interested in two major things in life: his career and his women. The events that unfold show that one of the two ultimately breaks him, as detailed herein.
In one particular scene, it is shown that Citizen Kane seems to order Susan Alexander, his second wife, to do things she doesn’t like. She is forced to live within the confines of Kane’s estate, although she wishes to go to New York. Kane seems to try and please her, but he is still set in his ways, and wants Susan to be content with what she has. Furthermore, the things that Susan does at Kane’s estate to pass the time are done out of interest, whereas Kane sees them as things done out of habit.
This scene represents the type of lifestyle that Kane comes to embrace, and one that is based on the importance of education and enterprise. It is these two aspects of life that he continues to invest in, until he meets his wife, and his wife-to-be. After Kane separates from his first wife, he is never the same again – he has lost his happiness.
Although it ends his career, Kane continues his manipulative behaviour, forcing his second wife to pursue a career which she has not interest or talent for. His nature turns from one of sociability to reclusiveness, as the happiness in his life has been taken from him. Therefore, he does not allow anyone close to him to be happy, including his wife Susan.
This total change in character represents two phases of Citizen Kane’s life: his youth and his retirement. When Kane was in his former youth, he was happy at one stage of his life, although he had neither prestige nor power. He was brought up by his mother in poverty, and had only few worldly possessions. He seemed to treasure what he did have, not what he didn’t have.
However, when he finally ended his political career, he became but a shell of his former self. He no longer treasured what he had, and didn’t seem to care for Susan Alexander his wife as much as he used to. The very possessions that he had became his prison; and one that he could not break out of.
The competing interests between Kane and Susan are ultimately what separated them. For Susan, she despised the career that Kane forced her into, and did not wish to do anything except to go to New York, as mentioned in the pivotal scene. For her, the confines of Kane’s estate did nothing but bring her misery.
Kane’s success was built on his political career in New York, and his fame was rooted with the enterprise that followed his footsteps. After he ended the career with his marriage to Susan, he did nothing but seek after his own, despite the fact that Susan used to be the object of his affection. This switch in what his priorities were and what they became ultimately led to his downfall, both personally and politically.
In the film, it is shown that the themes of Citizen Kane’s life ultimately get darker and darker, as his priorities shift and his character changes. His personality seems to get more introverted rather than extroverted, and this is reflected in his marriage and in his lifestyle. The despondency that sets in after his ultimate demise show that the theme of his life has become a sad reality that he will never again be happy, despite his actions to the contrary.
As Kane was an idealist in the past, he becomes a manipulator at the height of his career, but ends up as a recluse by the end of his life. His upbringing caused him to eventually seek out his own endeavours, and became very self-centred early on in life. This is shown by his dedication to his political career, with both his excessive spending and excessive hoarding. Before this stage in his life, he was very career-minded, but he eventually becomes more inwardly cantered as life goes on.
He becomes manipulative in terms of relationships and lifestyle. His marriage to his first wife ends up with the breakdown of his career, and the way he control his second marriage ends up in his change of nature. What he once was, and all that he represents seems to vanish as soon as his marriage began to crumble.
By his retirement years, he has lost all sense of purpose and direction. He no longer has control over his life or his lifestyle. He seeks to ‘regain’ his control by ordering his wife to do things that give him some sense of happiness, to no avail. It is clear that he is trying to fill an empty space inside himself with things, instead of people, with little success.
Some of the things he fills his life with are statues, which surround him in his house and become the object of materialism. These statues show his power, as they can be manipulated, just as Kane tries to manipulate people in real life. The irony of the fact that these statues bring him no joy is reflected in the fact that he no longer takes joy in people. This also includes his second wife, Susan, who has come to loathe him and his pursuits for this very reason.
Although the movie begins and ends with one word, the real meaning behind the word is a representation of Citizen Kane’s ambition: happiness. The only problem is, Kane seeks for happiness in many different things, but fails to see them in people. His career, his possessions and his fame can never completely fill the void in his life. His innocence as a child and his innocence when he married his first wife caused him true happiness, and the fact that he can never relive those memories is what brings about his fall.
In summary, Citizen Kane lets his power control him, his actions and everyone around him, ultimately leaving him devoid of true happiness, despite his position. His inner character is revealed by the way he comes to manipulate those close to him, and they come to resent him for it. In a literal sense, his change in character brings about the end of his marriage and career simultaneously and metaphorically shows that true happiness is not found in possessions, but in people. Citizen Kane fails to realise this all too late, and he ultimately dies alone, although he is remembered by many.