Study Guide

Citizen Kane Innocence

Innocence

In the same position appears the tiny figure of Charles Foster Kane, aged five (almost like an animated cartoon). He is in the act of throwing a snowball.

As a little boy, Charles Kane hardly had a care in the world. He was happy to just play in the snow outside his mother's boarding house. But that all changed the day Mr. Thatcher showed up and took him away from his parents.

MRS. KANE: Be careful, Charles!

Mrs. Kane cares deeply about her son and it's clear that his departure hurts her badly. But in the end, she thinks she's doing the right thing by sending him away to be educated in New England. She wants him to be a great man and doesn't think that will happen if he spends too much time around his no-good father.

KANE SR.: Well, I don't hold with signing my boy away to any bank as guardian just because—

Mr. Kane isn't happy about sending his son away from home. In his opinion, he's the boy's father and he should have final say about what happens to him. But since all of the family money belongs to his wife, he doesn't really get to say anything about Charles' leaving home.

KANE SR.: Don't say I didn't warn you.

Charles Kane's dad might not be the best guy in the world, but he's kind of right when he warns against sending Charles away. Of course, he wants to keep Charles around for all the wrong reasons (because Mr. Kane is probably abusive and entitled). But there's some truth to his claim that a boy should be raised by his parents and not some bank.

KANE: Rosebud…

At the end of his life, Charles says only the word "Rosebud." No one knows what it means, and we only find out at the end of the film that this is the name of his childhood sled. In this sense, Kane seems to be nostalgic for his lost childhood, a time of innocence that existed before he fell into the world of money and power.

The camera pans over hundreds of crates until it fixates on a child's sled. Someone grabs the sled and throws it into an incinerator. As the camera closes in, we see the word "Rosebud" written across the sled.

It's only at the very end of the movie that we find out what "Rosebud" means. A tight close-up shows that it's the name of Kane's childhood sled, the same sled he used as a literal shield when Mr. Thatcher tried to take him away. The move is symbolic because it shows how Rosebud represents that innocence and familial love that Kane doesn't want to lose.

KANE: See, Mom? I took the pipe out of his mouth. If it keeps on snowin', maybe I'll make some teeth and—

As a boy, all Charles Kane cares about is impressing his mother by talking about the snowman he just made. But his life is about to get a lot more complicated, because Mr. Thatcher from the bank has come to take him away.

MRS. KANE: Mr. Thatcher is going to take you on a trip with him tonight, Charles. You'll be leaving on Number Ten.

It's heartbreaking to see Mrs. Kane tell her son that he has to leave home forever. It's clear that the innocent young Charles doesn't really understand what's happening, so his mother tries to play on this innocence by telling him he'll get to ride on a train.

THATCHER: He certainly is. I wish I were a little boy and going to make a trip like that for the first time.

Even Thatcher tries to get in on the action when convincing little Charlie Kane that everything will be okay if he just leaves his family. But Thatcher can kid himself all he wants. It doesn't change the fact that leaving his family is really going to mess Charles up.

KANE SR.: You're going to live with Mr. Thatcher from now on, Charlie! You're going to be rich. Your Ma figures—that is—she and I have decided that this isn't the place for you to grow up in.

Mr. Kane wants his son to live at home. But he gives in when he realizes that he can't prevent his wife and Mr. Thatcher from sending Charles off to be educated in New England. Some part of him knows that this move will destroy Charles' innocence. But Mr. Kane is such a lousy dad that he doesn't have the cred to back up his beliefs.