Based on the reporters and narrations of the camera, what does the word Rosebud really mean for Kane?
When Kane loses his second wife and when he dies, he mentions the word “rosebud.” As a result the newspaper reporter thinks that this may offer a key to the meaning of the man. Having see and hear Kane’s story from all the narrators including the “narration” of the camera, what does the word Rosebud really mean for Kane?
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Part of what makes the construction of the film's plot so great is that the journalist, Thompson, is designed to find out "the truth" but is not able to do so. It was Welles' genius to make the argument that the modern setting is one where "truth" in the most absolute of senses is impossible. The best that one can do is fumble and reach for something that might seem to be "truth." Thompson can only surmise as to what "Rosebud" means. He offers up a vague and ambiguous interpretation that it is something to do with happiness. The idea that "Rosebud" refers to the name of the sled that represented childhood happiness is never fully grasped by any of the characters in the film. Similar to the snow globe that is destroyed at the end of Kane's life and at the start of the film, the modern pursuit of truth is always inhibited by something, a type of barrier that allows us to have a view of it, but not the "absolute" view of it. In this light, Thompson is on the outside of truth, only to be able to look at it from a distance and not be able to fully grasp it. "Rosebud" remains a mystery, something that we, as viewers, "get," but cannot do anything about because the sled with its name is to be burned and discarded. In the end, this makes the viewers similar to Thompson in that we can see truth and can perceive it, but are helpless to do anything that brings this sense of the absolute into reality.
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