Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane Quotes and Analysis

"I always gagged on that silver spoon."

Charles Foster Kane, 00:29:07

Kane utters this line towards the beginning of the film, but towards the end of his career. He believes he could have been a great man if not for all his wealth - a statement that subverts the notion of the American Dream. He never seems to be that interested in his money, even though Mr. Thatcher raises him to believe that his money is what makes him great. Eventually, the high expectations placed on Charles Foster Kane, combined with his inability to see himself as a flawed man underneath his larger-than-life persona, cause his inevitable downfall.

"Six years ago, I looked at picture of the world's greatest newspaper men. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Well, tonight, six years later, I got my candy. All of it."

Charles Foster Kane, 00:40:30

Kane says this line right after he has hired away all of the Chronicle's reporters and, as a result, increased the readership of the Inquirer over its competition. First of all, this represents Kane's transformation of the Inquirer into a tabloid, since that is what all the Chronicle's reporters specialize in. It shows how he has embraced the idea of "yellow journalism", and is more interested in readership than in keeping the promises he made in his Declaration of Principles. Secondly, it reveals Kane's brutal methods - to be the best by taking down his competition by any means necessary. His most powerful weapon, in this case, is his vast wealth. During this scene, Leland, however, expresses his concern about the new journalists at the Inquirer. He wonders if this tabloid form of journalism will sway Kane from his promises without Kane even noticing... and he turns out to be right.

"You take the Spanish-American War. I guess Mr. Leland was right: that was Mr. Kane's war. We didn't have anything to fight about. But do you think it hadn't been for that war of Mr. Kane's, we'd have the Panama Canal?"

Bernstein, 00:48:37

Kane's influence over the Spanish-American war in the film is a direct reference to William Randolph Hearst, who, along with Joseph Pulitzer, is considered to have led America into war against Spain in 1898 using the tactics of Yellow Journalism. However, Bernstein, Kane's biggest supporter, looks at the upside of "Mr. Kane's war": that the result assured the completion of the Panama Canal - although that was not Kane's intent. Instead, Kane wanted to exercise his power over the media, and he managed to start a war that changed the course of American history. Leland wanted him to be more responsible and careful with that power, and use it for the good of his country instead of for his own gain.

"I was his oldest friend and as far as I was concerned he behaved like a swine. Not that Charlie was ever brutal, he just did brutal things."

Jedediah Leland, 00:49:43

Although Leland was close to Kane, he was not afraid to defy him at the end of their relationship. He did believe, however, that Charles Foster Kane behaved a certain way because it was in line with the persona he wanted to project. He never betrayed any weakness, even if it meant trampling over the people who were closest to him, like Leland. Kane is never able to admit his mistakes - because he doesn't seem to believe himself capable of making any. When Jim W. Gettys forces his hand in his alleged affair with Susan, Kane refuses to listen to reason from Emily, who is concerned about the well-being of their child. Instead, Kane runs down the stairs after Gettys, threatening him and screaming at the top of his lungs, "I'm Charles Foster Kane!" His false sense of invincibility leads him to alienate everyone around him, even though he cared more than he let on. It is telling that Kane wrote a letter to Leland long after their falling-out, but it was Leland who chose not to respond.

"I would make my promises now, if I weren't too busy arranging to keep them".

Charles Foster Kane, 01:02:28

Charles Foster Kane runs for Governor of New York on the platform of bringing down the corrupt incumbent, Boss Jim W. Gettys. Meanwhile, he is spending time in the apartment of a 22-year old shopgirl. After publishing his Declaration of Principles in the Inquirer, Kane uses the paper to help start a war based on brutalities that don't exist. Charles Foster Kane, time and time again, is unable to keep his promises. When he is drafting his Declaration of Principles, Bernstein warns him about making promises he can't keep. At one point, Kane's lack of prudence becomes a joke - Bernstein and Kane banter about Kane's inability to stop buying expensive statues. At the point when Kane utters the above quote, he uses it to assure voters of his honesty. The idea of a promise just becomes another tool in Kane's arsenal, which he deploys simply to gain the love and respect of others.

"You talk about the people as though you own them. As though they belong to you. Goodness, as long as I can remember you've talked about giving the people their rights as if you could make them a present of liberty as a reward for services rendered."

Jedediah Leland, 01:12:38

This quote comes from the confrontation between Kane and a drunk Leland after Kane has basically sabotaged himself in the election, even though Kane cannot yet see the depth of his own folly. Leland has gone from faithfully stumping for his old friend to losing all belief in Kane's good intentions. Leland now accuses Kane for using "the people" as a way to exercise his control - an adoring public that will love him unconditionally, no matter what he does, because he holds the key to improving their lives. Leland pokes holes in Charles Foster Kane's perceived invincibility - and this quote is his way of saying, "Now I can see you for what you truly are". Leland is disappointed in the man who he believed in so thoroughly, the man who set out with his Declaration of Principles. He now realizes that Kane doesn't care about giving back to the people, he only wants to gain their support.

"...he was disappointed in the world, so he built one of his own. An absolute monarchy."

Jedediah Leland, 01:24:16

When Charles Foster Kane falters, instead of trying to find a way to fix the problem, he comes up with an even larger assertion of his power and influence. Instead of accepting his weakness, he finds an even more spectacular way to show his strength. After his failure to be elected Governor, Kane mounts Susan Alexander's opera career. After that fails, he builds the largest private home in the country where he retreats with Susan. He always needs to find a new avenue to exercise his control - whether it is journalism, politics, music, or even his own home. He refuses to let Susan out of his sight, although she is terribly miserable at Xanadu. She shrilly accuses her husband of never giving her anything she really wants, which is true - he only gives her the things he wants her to want, the things that are easy for him to give. Susan's departure is like a coup against Kane's absolute monarchy at Xanadu, and as the fallen leader, he retreats into the shadows. An interesting note: Historian John Tebbel said of William Randolph Hearst: "When Hearst went to San Simeon, what he did was to create a state within the United States in which he was the absolute ruler, the dictator" (PBS).

"I couldn't go through with the singing again. You don't know what it means to know that people are - that a whole audience just doesn't want you."

"That's when you've got to fight 'em...All right. You won't have to fight 'em anymore. It's their loss."

Susan Alexander Kane/ Charles Foster Kane, 01:37:35

This exchange exemplifies the dynamic between Susan and Charles. She is not a good singer, and she has accepted it. She knows that the audience hates her, and resents that she is in a starring role simply because of her husband's money and influence. The negativity and public shaming eats away at Susan and makes her miserable. She doesn't care about being center stage. Meanwhile, her husband is essentially delusional about the situation. He cannot accept that maybe Susan just isn't good enough, and places the blame on the audience instead of on himself for pushing Susan into the spotlight. To him, her leaving opera is like admitting defeat, even though the performing was making her so miserable that she wanted to take her own life.

"You don't love me. You want me to love you. 'Sure, I'm Charles Foster Kane, whatever you want, just name it and it's yours. But you've gotta love me!'"

Susan Alexander Kane, 01:43:19

Susan says this to Charles in the scene before she leaves him for good. After hearing it, he slaps her. This confrontation is similar to the one between Kane and Leland after losing the election. Charles Foster Kane does not understand the connection between love and sacrifice, even though his own mother sent him away because she loved him so much. He believes that people will love him and listen to him because he is rich and powerful and therefore, he does not attempt to forge relationships on the basis of his private persona. This moment is a major contrast to Susan and Charles's first meeting, where she has no idea who she is and he makes her laugh. She is never that happy after they are married - it seems as though their marriage could have had a chance if they had stayed in her apartment making shadow puppets - but that kind of life was never enough for Charles Foster Kane.

"Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then he lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn't have explained anything. I don't think a word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. A missing piece."

Thompson, 01:54:07

Film critic Jorge Luis Borges thought that Citizen Kane had two plots, writing, "the first [is] of almost banal imbecility... At the moment of his death, [Kane] yearns for a single thing in the universe - a fittingly humble sled he played with as a child!" (Andrews). Andrews, along with many other viewers and critics, did not see the "Rosebud" reveal as the answer to all the questions about Charles Foster Kane. According to Borges, the second plot of the film is "the investigation of a man's secret soul by means of the works he has made, the words he has spoken, the many destinies he has destroyed..." (Andrews). Thompson's above summation, however, satisfies both these plots. Rosebud does explain the one thing that Kane could not reclaim or buy - his childhood, but that was not the key to explaining his life. Rather, Citizen Kane, the film, has just filled in many pieces of this multi-dimensional puzzle, in which Rosebud is an illuminating piece, but hardly the only one of significance.