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The film Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles, is a great example of how a man can be corrupted by wealth. Through the characters in the film we can observe how Charles Foster Kane, an idealistic man with principles, can be changed and misguided by wealth and what accompanies wealth. The film takes places during the late 19th century and early 20th century, a time in American history when the world is changing and wealth is a great power to change it with. Through the story telling of Kane’s life we are able to see how wealth changes, not only Kane’s ideals, but his actions and how he perceives the world.
The corruption of idealism by wealth can be seen throughout the film, especially through the thoughts and actions of Kane and the other characters. For example, when Kane publishes his first newspaper for the Inquirer he prints his “Declaration of Principles”. Jebediah Leland remarks at that time that he would like to keep it because he feels that it will be an important document one day. As Kane becomes more wealthy and more corrupt by his wealth, Leeland returns the document and we see that Kane understands that he is no longer the same man he was before or the man he set out to become. From this we also see that Leeland and the other characters in the film have come to the same conclusion. Furthermore, in the film, Kane states more than once, that people will think or do whatever he wishes them. Kane, with his wealth, tries to create his idealistic world with the power that wealth gives him and as a result tries to control everyone. In addition, the reference of “Rosebud” throughout the movie is a symbol of Kane’s wish to return to his childhood and a new start. When his second wife leaves him Kane realizes the corruption wealth has done on his life and says “rosebud” because he wants to return to his sled, his childhood, to return to the beginning when wealth has yet to corrupt him. Citizen Kane is the story of a man’s great ideas to make the world better, but unable to because of the corruption wealth brought him.
Citizen Kane is set at a time in American History where the world is changing and money is at the center of that world. For example, during this period of time wealth has become more important in America has more new money arrives. Kane is a part of this new money sweep across America and like everyone else is stretching his power and wealth. He stretches it so much that he loses sight of his objection, which is replaced by his obsession to be in control and make all the decisions, a power which he finds through wealth. But it is because of this obsession that his idealistic world is corrupted. Furthermore, the film revolves most around a newspaper. A newspaper reaches everyone and during this time one of the only few mass media. It is through the newspaper that Kane stretches his wealth and influence. He is corrupted by the power that the newspaper gives him. In addition, Kane is constantly surrounded by beautiful things and people, until the end of the movie when he has become engrossed in his corruption. Kane at he end of the movie is left in seclusion at Xanadu, yet still surrounded by beauty, his idealistic world has become empty because he has no one to share it with. Even his only true friend, Leeland, will not return a letter that Kane has sent him. The settings of this film are very important in revealing the theme of corruption caused by wealth.
Citizen Kane comprises of one episode after another, an endless stream of events that lead to Kane’s corruption from wealth. For example, Kane believes that he will win the election and become Governor, even when his opponent, Getty, has threatened to release news on him that will cause his downfall. Kane believes that wealth has made him invisible and unstoppable. When Kane realizes his defeat he tries to compensate it by marrying Susan Alexander. Furthermore, Kane uses his wealth to try to prove that he can create his idealistic world. Kane tries to prove to the world that his wife is a real singer and not just a “singer” as was printed in the newspaper. Kane goes to great lengths to try to prove himself and becomes even more absorbed in his wealth, power, and image. In addition, the corruption of wealth can be most seen during the meal scene between Kane and Emily Norton. We can see that overtime Kane and Emily’s relationship changes as Kane becomes more immersed in his newspaper and the power he has. As Kane grows more and more corrupt his relationship with Emily gets worse. A symbol of how Kane’s relationship with others have also changed. Through the events that occur in the film and Kane’s life we can observe the changes Kane goes through as wealth corrupts him.
Citizen Kane is an example of the many lives changed during this point in American history when the world began to see more wealth. Charles Foster Kane was a man that started out with good beliefs and a goal to see his idealism put into action. But wealth was able to corrupt him and Kane lost sight of his goal. He became engrossed with the life that wealth brought him, as well as the power it afforded him. When the corruption destroyed Kane altogether, it was too late for him to turn back, he was already lost in his obsession. Kane wanted to return to the beginning and change his life, to the simpler times with his “rosebud” sled and his childhood. When his wealth had not yet got to his mind. The film Citizen Kane is a story of wealth and how it corrupted one mans ideal world.