Study Guide

Citizen Kane Wealth

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NARRATOR: Kane's empire, in its glory, held dominion over thirty-seven newspapers, thirteen magazines, a radio network. An empire upon an empire. The first of grocery stores, paper mills, apartment buildings, factories, forests, ocean-liners—an empire through which for fifty years flowed, in an unending stream, the wealth of the earth's third richest gold mine.

As the radio announcer tells us, Charles Kane's fortune used to be one of the biggest in the world. He owned nearly everything there was to own, which just makes it all the more crushing when he squanders most of it on statues and his giant mansion, Xanadu.

KANE: You see, I have money and property. If I don't defend the interests of the underprivileged, somebody else will—maybe somebody without any money or any property. And that would be too bad.

Charles Kane sees himself as the savior of ordinary working people who are being exploited by the rich. He thinks he can be this person because he has all the wealth he'll ever need to wage war on the rich folks of America. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to realize that people's rights aren't a gift he can give to them out of generosity.

BERNSTEIN: It's no trick to make an awful lot of money if all you want is to make a lot of money.

Thompson seems to think that Thatcher is a smart man because he made a lot of money, but Bernstein disagrees. He thinks that making money isn't that hard if it's the only thing you care about. The thing is that most people care about other things like friends and family, so they try to lead balanced lives and don't end up getting rich.

BERNSTEIN: He never knew there was anything in the world but money. That kind of fellow you can fool every day in the week—and twice on Sundays!

Bernstein is convinced that deep down, people who only care about money are actually pretty stupid. After all, focusing on money all the time makes them blind to anything else, and people who are blind are really easy to trick.

SUSAN: What's the difference between giving me a bracelet or giving somebody else a hundred thousand dollars for a statue you're going to keep crated up and never look at? It's only money. It doesn't mean anything.

Susan is sick of Kane acting as though people's love can be bought and sold if he just has enough money. But in her mind, money hardly means anything once you have enough to live on. In her mind, "It doesn't mean anything," no matter what Kane might think.

SUSAN: That's what it's been from the first moment I met you. No matter how much it cost you—your time, your money—that's what you've done with everybody you've ever known. Tried to bribe them!

Susan thinks that the only thing Kane has ever done is try to bribe people to love him. That's because he doesn't understand the idea of a true give-and-take with other people. He needs everything on his own terms, and money is his way of trying to get everything this way.

SUSAN: They haven't been tough on me. I just lost my money. But when I compare these last ten years with the twenty I spent with him—

Thompson thinks that times have been tough on Susan Alexander because she lost her entire fortune. But she doesn't seem to mind it all too much. In her mind, the worst years of her life (with Kane) were also the richest, so there's not much of a connection between money and happiness for her.

ASSISTANT: "Venus," Fourth Century. Acquired 1911. Cost twenty-three thousand. […] That's a lot of money to pay for a dame without a head.

It's not quite clear why Kane spent so much of his money acquiring art. But when he dies and movers start packing up his stuff, they think it's all just a waste of money because none of it is practical. It's almost as if Kane spent his life trying to buy an object that he never managed to find… like Rosebud.

NARRATOR: How, to boarding housekeeper Mary Kane, by a defaulting boarder, in 1868 was left the supposedly worthless deed to an abandoned mineshaft: the Colorado Lode.

We learn that Charles Kane inherited his great fortune from his mother, who was given a supposedly worthless Colorado mine by a person trying to pay off his boarding debt. Well the mine turns out to be worth a ton of money, and Charles' mother thinks she's doing the right thing by sending him away so he can be raised with a good education. The problem is that in the process, she deprives him of the love that a growing child needs.

THATCHER: Yes. My firm had been appointed trustees by Mrs. Kane for the fortune, which she had recently acquired. It was her wish that I should take charge of this boy, Charles Foster Kane.

There's little doubt that Charles Kane's exile from home at a young age has a big effect on his personality later in life. After all, he spends his whole life trying to get back the love and innocence he lost as a boy. But since he only knows the world of money, he tries to use money to get people's love… and it never works.

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