Carlson, Jerry. "Citizen Kane." PMLA Vol. 91, No. 5 (Oct, 1976): 918-20.
In his piece titled Citizen Kane, Jerry Carlson provides support for the ideas of Robert Carringer, and adds an additional level of meaning to his interpretation of ‘Rosebud.’ He begins the piece establishing support for the idea that ‘Rosebud’ is a MacGuffin, used to forward Thompsons investigation of the life of Charles Foster Kane. He adds to this by claiming also that the destruction of ‘Rosebud’ the sled acts as a device to provide closure for the audience. Because the audience knows that ‘Rosebud’ is indeed a MacGuffin, they can take satisfaction from that fact that it is destroyed before it can be used to try and explain Kane as a man. He states, “the significance of Rosebud is not as a symbol or ‘symbolic imagery,’but as a rhetorical ploy to provide a sense of closure for a narrative generated upon epistemological concepts of incompleteness.” The destruction of ‘Rosebud’ makes it okay that the film leaves open the question that Carrington describes, as to whether or not Kane can actually be understood.
This article not only provides direct support for my thesis and the ideas suggested by Robert Carrington, but it also demonstrates that other aspects of the film makes sense in relation to this proposed thesis. Because the ending of the movie and the destruction of the sled follow seamlessly from the idea of the use of ‘Rosebud’ as a MacGuffin, this argument is strengthened.
In this 1941 review, originally published in New Masses, Joy Davidman gives a forceful yet mixed review of the merits of Citizen Kane. While she acknowledges that the film is brilliantly acted, that the techniques employed in it’s production may inspire filmmakers in the future, and that both the score and the make-up artists deserve much credit, she feels that Citizen Kane is an incomplete portrait of a man with such enormous influence. She argues that instead of providing an analysis of the true significance of Charles Foster Kane, the movie instead uses the gimmick of Kane’s ‘dying words’ as the “real clue to Kane,” for which no explanation is provided until the end. Despite her mixed feelings, Davidman concludes that she would see the film again.
As it pertains to my thesis, this review is representative of many that go beyond labeling the symbol of ‘Rosebud’ as ambiguous and say that it’s use weakens the picture of Charles Foster Kane that Citizen Kane is attempting to create. In fact, ‘Rosebud’ is often viewed as the weakest element of the entire film. This review represents a source of media pressure that will influence Welles future explanations of ‘Rosebud.’ Because this review and others like it voice a complaint about 'Rosebud' that is different from past concerns, it follows that the response Welles provides will be transformed as well.
Welles, Orson. "Orson Welles on his Purpose in Making Citizen Kane." Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles. By Frank Brady. New York, NY: Scribner, 1989. 283-85.
In this statement originally released in 1941, Orson Welles responds to reviews such as Crowther’s and references like Kael’s that ‘Rosebud’ is an unclear symbol that Welles himself is unsure how to interpret. While he does briefly mention his inspiration for creating the character Charles Foster Kane which includes no indication of a reference to William Randolph Hearst, the bulk of his three page statement is a surprisingly straightforward treatment of the symbol ‘Rosebud.’ A brief excerpt is telling of this simplicity:
“The most basic of all my ideas was that of a search for the true significance of the man’s apparently meaningless dying words...From the view of the psychologist, my character had never made what is known as ‘transference’ from his mother...As it turns out,‘Rosebud’ is the trade name of a cheap little sled on which Kane was playing on the day he was taken away from his home and his mother. In his subconscious it represented the simplicity, the comfort, above all the lack of responsibility in his home, and also it stood for his mother’s love which Kane never lost.”
Welles goes on to state that it wouldn’t be dramatic to have a random character enter the film to explain all of this to the audience, so he instead needed to make the sled reappear at the conclusion of the movie. To do this, he made Kane a collector of objects so that the sled’s appearance would not “strain the credulity of the audience”.
In relation to my thesis, this piece represents the second concept that Welles has about ‘Rosebud.’ His initial comments that he himself was not sure of it’s significance were modified in response to the media’s negative response to the ambiguity of the symbol.