American Dream: Compare/Contrast Great Gatsby And Citizen Kane Essay, Research Paper
The United States of America is the most powerful, wealthy, and attractive country in the world. The varieties of class, individuality, religion, and race are a few of the enrichments within the “melting pot” of our society. The blend of these numerous diversities is the crucial ingredient to our modern nation. Even though America has been formed upon these diversities, its inhabitants- the “average American”- have a single thing in common; a single idea; a single goal; the American Dream. The Dream consists of a seemingly simple concept; success. Americans dream of a successful marriage, family, successful job, and own a Victorian-style home with a white picket fence and an oak tree with a swing tire in the front yard. The accessories add to the package according to the individuality of the American Dream. And, perhaps along with the “melting pot” includes the entangled extremes of each American’s dream; the degree of the Dream is now ambiguous in terms of boundaries. Perhaps the American Dream varies for the individual as the individual varies.
Charles Foster Kane possessed everything the materialistic man could hope for. Kane had more money than he could count, power, a successful job, women at the crook of his arm, and expensive possessions some men would go to the extremes to have. Yet, Charles constantly had a vast void within him. The most important element Kane lacked was the single thing he couldn’t have; that was love.
“You won’t get lonely, Charles… You’ll be the richest man in the world someday.” Kane’s mother and father try to use the image of money as collateral for giving him up. Charles experienced a great deal of loss in his early childhood. The traumatizing emotions of insecurity and disposition caused by his moving away from home are the roots of Charles’ agonizing yearn to be loved. Sadly, Charles didn’t have a long bond from his mother, but he loved her; Charles’ mother never loved her son. “I’ve had his trunk packed for a week now.” Charles’ mother had his trunk ready ahead of time in anxiousness for him to leave. She signed the contracts without any hesitation and showed no signs of emotion in her stone face. Charles’ unreturned love creates a sense of fear and hesitation to love something, only to experience abandonment again. Ironically, even though Charles becomes “the richest man in the world,” he also becomes the loneliest man in the world; despite all his possessions, power, and potential, Charles didn’t posses the single element that became vital to his self-worth; love
Inevitably, Charles foster Kane becomes the rich man everyone predicted he would be. In responses to the letter sent to Charles offering numerous businesses to own, he writes his disinterest in all of the “sure-money” businesses except the New York Inquirer. “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper.” Charles’ absence of seriousness in the awareness of the gross profit conveys his carelessness about money. Instead of running a mining company and gaining a definite profit, he chooses to run the Inquirer because it would be “fun.” Charles conveys his carefree emotions about his money and concentrates more on his own personal enjoyment. “At a million dollars a year, I’ll have to retire in… sixty years.” Charles snickers at the rate of his money loss and again he shows no interest in his mass money, his only interest is in keeping himself busy and happy (something he cannot maintain). “So we’re bust. Just give me the paper so I can sign it and go home.” Even after learning that the Inquirer had to be shut down because of lack of money, Charles signs the paper as if its only value was his ticket home.
Throughout the reporter’s interview with Mr. Bernstein, many clues to the “Rosebud” mystery were revealed but never deciphered. “Maybe this Rosebud… maybe it’s something he lost. Mr. Kane was a man who lost almost everything.” In addition to Mr. Bernstein’s statement, Charles Foster Kane was a man who had everything- according to by-standers- but at the same time, he had nothing- according to close relations. Charles Foster Kane possessed everything, materialistically, one’s heart desires. But, in a different aspect, Charles Foster Kane had nothing. “He married for love. That’s why he did everything. That’s all he ever really wanted was love. He just didn’t have any to give.” Love; the single thing Charles wanted, and needed, but could never grasp because he was incapable of loving someone else.
In his battle to be elected governor, Kane’s primary campaign idea was formed to benefit the underpaid and the underprivileged. His efforts to benefit the lower-class citizens seem to create of compensate for his early childhood deprivations. Kane, unadmittedly, wants to help the lower-class families so his own experiences do not have to be endured by the children of these families.
Also during the running for office, Emily Kane(Charles’ first wife) confronts Charles’ mistress. Surprisingly, Charles’ infuriated competitor was awaiting his arrival. “But the voters of this state…” Charles has become more interested in the devotion of the people of New York than his wife, son, and friends. Charles chose to stick by the people of New York instead of his wife and son because the vast populous lead to more love for Charles.
After the news about Charles Foster Kane’s mistress, Susan Alexander, was released Charles and Mr. Leland had a confrontation about the situation. Mr. Leland, who had been drinking past his limit, said things harshly but truthfully. “You just want to persuade people that you love them just so they’ll love you back. But you want love on your own terms.”
Later in the movie, Xanadu, Charles and Susan’s relationship is painfully detached. Ironically, their marriage turns foul after her love for him runs dry. Susan wants to visit New York; she wants to go to shows and restaurant and dances. But Charles replies, “our home is here now… I do not wish to visit New York.” Charles’ reluctancy to return to New York symbolizes his disinterest in returning to his mother’s boarding house. On the nigh of Charles’ first encounter with Susan Alexander, his plan was to go to his mother’s and collect some old belongings after she had died, but he seemed reluctant to go. His returning to New York would be equivalent to his return to the boarding house.
Susan, as well as Charles, had a dream. Yet, her concept of the perfect life changed after she achieved what she thought she wanted. “You always said you wanted to live in a palace.” Susan thought all along that all there is to life is money and diamonds and wardrobe- until she all those materialistic possessions and felt more empty than she had before. “Money doesn’t meananything! You never give me anything you really care about!” After enduring a shocking realization that what she thought wanted in life wasn’t at all what she really wanted, she began to realize that the single thing she did want, she knew she couldn’t have- not from Charles at least. Charles Foster Kane was seemingly capable of almost anything- except love, for he was never taught how to love. The one thing he loved- his parents (who made weak efforts to return love to their own son) abandoned The intangible bond that is crucial between a mother and her son was attempted by Charles, but was not returned by his mother. The rejection of Charles’ love created a sense of fear and incapability to love- which had shadowed him the rest of his life.
As for Rosebud, the sled, it was the last time Charles Foster Kane can remember being truly happy. Prior to leaving his parents, he was playing in the snow with Rosebud, feeling secure, loved, and safe from the realities of the rest of the worries. His last happy memory was lost in the blizzard; the blizzard of his own life. Charles Kane’s vast consummation of statues was never understood by anyone. The statues were bought and never opened- why? Perhaps Charles tried to compensate losing his most valuable possession with buying more invaluable items. But they still remained invaluable; quantity did not reimburse for his one quality item. “Mr. Kane was a man who had everything and then lost it. Rosebud was something he couldn’t get or something he lost.”
“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams-not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” Jay Gatsby, as well as any other American, dreamt for the angelic life. Being the nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm, Jay Gatsby never faced money predicaments. His house was a mansion- “a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.” Similar to Charles Foster Kane, Jay Gatsby was a rich, powerful, and respected man. Gatsby could have anything and everything that could be bought. For the materialistic, Jay Gatsby had the absolute life. Yet, his possessions were obsolete because he didn’t have the most essential and most profound part of Man’s life; love.
Jay Gatsby held enormous social gatherings at his immaculate mansion, but he didn’t usually socialize. The parties seemed to bring the mansion to life; the only life it sees, for Gatsby lives alone and lonely. Even though the guests come to his parties, Gatsby, no matter how many people try to exchange some insight with him, is still detached from the crowd. As the drinks run dry and the gossip grows old, guests disperse and once again the mansion becomes a lifeless structure tailored with elegant details. “A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host who stood on the porch, his hand up in a formal gesture of farewell.” Gatsby’s isolation in the doorway portrays his solidarity in life.
The only ray of sunshine in Jay Gatsby’s life is a woman whom he has loved for a great while. Daisy Buchanan completed Gatsby’s dream. Simply her presence satisfied his burning hunger for a sense of love and belonging. “… it couldn’t be over-dreamed- that voice was a deathless song.” Jay Gatsby’s embellishment on the simple things such as Daisy’s voice conveys his hopeless love for her. If only he could have Daisy, his wealthy life could then be rich. Much like Charles Kane, love is the only element that could fill the lingering emptiness withing their souls.
“Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.” Gatsby’s infatuation with Daisy grows into perspective as we learn that he bought his mansion purely to be within sight’s distance of his love. Gatsby would look at the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock every night as if it were her. “If it wasn’t for the mist, we could see your home across the bay. You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.” The burning green light symbolizes Gatsby’s burning desire for Daisy, but the mist of reality blocks his view. The light is just out of Gatsby’s vision, as if Daisy were just out of his grasp.
Daisy, much like Susan Alexander, always convinced herself that she knew what she really wanted out of life. Daisy, being married to Tom Buchanan, had more than enough money and all the luxuries anyone could imagine, but she seemed discontent with what she had. Unhappy, Daisy ventures to try and find something she doesn’t share with Tom; love. In her search, she realizes that Gatsby could fulfill her emotional emptiness. “Daisy’s face was smeared with tears and when I came in… Gatsby was literally glowing.” Realizing Gatsby’s feelings, Daisy cried for joy, and perhaps she also cries out of sadness, for she always subliminally knew she could never be with Jay.
As Daisy gains more of Jay Gatsby’s affection, he marriage becomes unstable, and scared to lose her materialistic things in life, she turns back to Tom. Daisy knows she cannot have both. Even though her marriage with Tom does not consist of love, it is stable. Daisy, conscious of this stability, stays with what she feels secure, ignoring the bond she has formed with Jay. Similar to Susan Alexander, when Daisy Buchanan finally achieves what she thought she needed in her life, she returns to what she had before. But for Daisy, she returned to aristocracy and Susan returned to a more subtle, ordinary lifestyle where she could blend with society as Susan Alexander, not as an aristocrat.
Along with the ingredients of the “melting pot” are the jumbled ideas of the American Dream. Is there only one Dream? Perhaps it is simply happiness. No matter if it’s money, love, security or a palace, a snow sled, or a green light, whatever it may be that fills the blank space in your heart, the Dream will create a sense of absolute contentment within yourself. As for some of us, simple, unconditional things can fill those blanks, and for others, possessions may occupy them, but the unbounded span of the Dream includes the unbounded span of the individual American.