Quote 3

Kane:   “I run a couple of newspapers. What do you do?”

Charles Foster Kane says this to Susan Alexander during their first meeting, which comes during Leland’s flashback retelling of Kane’s life. For Kane, part of Susan’s appeal is that she knows nothing of his fame or notoriety. Kane is thinking of his mother when he meets Susan, and his notion of Susan becomes inextricably tied up in his subconscious with memories of his lost childhood. She comes to represent unconditional love, something he doesn’t think he can achieve now that he is a rich newspaper magnate. Remaking himself as a man who just runs a couple of newspapers takes Kane back to a simpler time and gives him a sense that peaceful domesticity is possible. He comes close to experiencing such tranquility in the following sequence as he sits quietly in Susan’s armchair and listens while she sings and plays the piano for him.

In answer to the second part of the quote, Susan says she’s a shop girl, but that’s not what Kane takes from the conversation. Instead he focuses on what she says about her mother’s dreams for her, and he takes those dreams up as his own. Kane finds Susan attractive in part because she represents the masses that he so longs to control. At one point he even describes her to Leland as “a cross section of the American public.” Kane’s desire to shape Susan according to his ideal results in the collapse of both his first marriage and his political career.