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.
Rosenbaum, Jonathan, ed. "Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich." This Is Orson Welles. By Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich and Jonathan Rosenbaum. New York: Da Capo P, Incorporated, 1998. Guaymas Chapter.
This Guaymas Chapter of This is Orson Welles is composed of material from a three-hundred and twenty-two page interview that Peter Bogdanovich conducted with Orson Welles. The interview was then edited and supplemented with primary sources by editor Jonathan Rosenbaum. The interview touches on almost all of Welle’s works, however, I will focus on it’s implications about Citizen Kane. Interestingly, the interview begins by exploring the topic of Hearst’s intervention. Welles states that he felt more pressure from those intervening on behalf of Hearst than from Hearst himself. By this point, Welles is no longer denying that Kane is based on Hearst, but is instead defending that Susan was not at all a reflection of Marion Davies. Discussion then moves to the topic of Herman Mankiewicz. In this interview, Welles gives Mankiewicz complete credit (or responsibility) for the idea of ‘Rosebud.’ He also goes on to say that he is not at all fond of the idea, and that he in fact did all he could to provide disclaimers for the symbolism implied by Kane’s dying word. The rest of the interview addresses issues and ideas from films other than Citizen Kane.
This interview represents another major change in Orson Welles’ attitude towards ‘Rosebud.’ With the ideas he asserts in this interview, he not continues to show that he is dissatisfied with what the symbol 'Rosebud' represents, but also removes the blame of ‘Rosebud’s’ failure from himself and places it on Mankiewicz, even stating that he took efforts to reduce the effect that the symbol had. This concept of ‘Rosebud’ as a weakness to the film is in stark contrast to the views Welles expressed in sources such as his 1941 statement about the purpose of Citizen Kane (4). It is, however, very much in line with the criticisms that reviewers began to voice after the films release, such as in Joy Davidman's Citizen Kane (5). This source supports the idea put forth in my thesis that Welles explanation of ‘Rosebud’ is dependent on media pressures because it carries almost no significance of it’s own. Welles had also previously rejected the idea of 'Rosebud' while still taking responsibility for the idea, as in his 1960 interview for the CBC (6), but now he refuses to take responsibility for the idea he sees as a failure.
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.