Quote 4

Rick:   “Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now. Here's looking at you, kid."

Rick says these words to Ilsa at the airport during the final scene. As the scene unwinds, who exactly will depart Casablanca that night and which man, Rick or Laszlo, will wind up with Ilsa remain unclear. Just before Rick says these words, he states clearly his decision: Ilsa and Laszlo will leave together on the plane, and Rick will remain in Casablanca. With these lines, which culminate the most dramatic exchange of dialogue in the film, Rick recasts the entire question. The real concern, he suggests, is not which man will get the woman. In the larger scheme of things, such a concern doesn't matter. A war is raging is Europe, and the happiness of these three people is insignificant.

These lines are the clearest statement of Casablanca's moral resolution: the triumph of the political over the personal. But Rick is saying more than just this. Although Rick calls himself, Ilsa, and Laszlo "little people," he also recognizes that Laszlo is something more. These lines are not a cry of despair but a recognition of the fact that large political considerations trump the individual concerns of lovers. Laszlo must survive in order to continue his political work. Ilsa must accompany him, not necessarily because she loves him, but because he loves her, and her presence will make him more effective politically. Through the personal sacrifice these words imply, Rick catapults himself from the realm of "little people" into the sphere of large causes. Like Laszlo, Rick becomes a partisan, a warrior, and a hero, and he seems to realize that whereas Laszlo's heroism is amplified by Ilsa's presence, Rick himself functions best on his own.

While Rick claims heroism for himself with these words, he denies the same privilege to Ilsa. Rick claims to have learned that their love means nothing, but Ilsa, he says, can't understand that yet. Only in the future will she figure it out. At best, her actions are passively, or accidentally, heroic. Those who see Rick as exacting some sort of revenge against Ilsa in the finale will find some proof in this scene, as Rick seems to write off as insignificant or foolish any heartbreak Ilsa may feel. He, of all people, should understand how devastating a broken heart can be, and in asking Ilsa to calmly accept and understand his decision, he is asking the impossible. Rick tries to comfort the heartbroken Ilsa with the words "Now, now," but he also calls attention to their differing priorities. She still believes in the importance of love, while he understands that some things are even greater. Shortly after this speech, Rick tells Laszlo that Ilsa visited him the previous evening and pretended still to be in love with him to get the letters. Rick prefers the certainty of being noble to the uncertainty of love, despite the ambiguities of each person's true feelings. In making the choice to let Ilsa go, he rebukes Ilsa, who, unlike Laszlo and Rick, seems still to consider love the higher value.

At the speech's finale, Rick repeats his favorite phrase of affection: "Here's looking at you, kid." The repetition of this phrase, like the consoling words "Now, now," suggests that love continues to endure, despite the circumstantial barriers that keep Ilsa and Rick apart. At the same time, the phrase takes on a new resonance. "Here's looking at you, kid," when Rick said it in Paris, implied a childlike sense of an interminable present, when the looking promised to last forever. The playful "kid" at the end suggests the innocence of Rick and Ilsa's love. In this final statement, we understand Rick to be saying, "Here's looking at you for the last time." The "kid" comes across as ironic, for the events of the past two years have forced both characters to see the world for what it is, a lawless and often hostile place that leaves no room for childish innocence or ignorance. Rick is not only saying goodbye to Ilsa here, but to the child within himself. His act of self-sacrifice is his political coming of age, just like that of his nation as it decided to enter World War II.