Citizen Kane- After the Viewing

Below are some articles that will help you to reflect on Citizen Kane as a tragedy.

Citizen Kane: A Very American Tragedy

The “Milk” of Orson Welles: Citizen Kane As Shakespearean Tragedy


It may seem odd to have watched a film that is so old and in black and white but the beauty of the genre of tragedy is that it really is timeless. The ideas that are addressed in each text really do allow us to reflect on our own lives. Ultimately, this is the goal of tragedy. Catharsis is thought to be a type of “emotional cleansing”. It allows us to examine our own lives with clear thought and reflect on our own weaknesses. Citizen Kane deals with a very relevant idea, even though it is also a cliche: that money cannot buy happiness.

Charlie Kane fails to understand this idea until it is too late. By uttering “rosebud” (the sled that is the symbol for family, love and true happiness) he acknowledges that he has forgotten to pay attention to the non-materialistic elements of his life and has failed to find true happiness in the things that we should value the most. Charlie is a warning to us, an urging to reflect on what we hold most valuable.

You may note that all of the texts we have discussed this year (Oedipus, King Lear, Gladiator, Antigone, The Gift of the Magi and now Citizen Kane) all deal with material happiness/power and family in some way shape or form. Just reflect on this and see if you can spot the connections.

Posted by Renee Plunkett

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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