Thursday, April 19, 2007

Citizen Kane and Gail Wynand

Citizen Kane is Gail Wynand with a different motive.

Kane wishes to find something to fill the emptiness, to be loved for himself; Wynand wishes to bring himself up and out of Hell's Kitchen, to show the world what he has become, that he has power even though once they ordered him around.

This makes the two of them very different men. It's the similarities that are so compelling, though, and it's those that I want to discuss.

From Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead, page 617:

    "All this power I wanted, reached and never used...Now they'll see what I can do. I'll force them to recognize him as he should be recognized. I'll give him the fame he deserves. Public opinion? Public opinion is what I make it."
Compare to Kane:

Kane is constantly fighting losing battles. He is threatened and he refuses to back down; he prefers to face scandal, certain that he can order people to think of him as he wishes, sway public opinion as he chooses. The same is true of his relationship with his wife. He has her sing in the opera, even though she has a terrible voice, and forces her to keep singing- why?

    KANE (angrily) That's when you've got to fight them. That's when you've got to make them. That's -

    Susan's head turns and she looks at him silently with pathetic eyes.

    KANE I'm sorry. (he leans over to pat her hand) You won't have to fight them anymore. (he smiles a little) It's their loss.

Kane doesn't believe in giving up. He believes he has the power, the money and the ability to make the public do exactly what he wants. If the public refuses to listen, he becomes angry; he views this as a fight and he means to fight to the death. He believes that he can win.

Do you know why he loved her to begin with? Because she loved him for himself. Not for his glitter or gaudy fame, but for himself. She didn't even know who he was. It's that pure emotion, the love for him and not all that his money can buy, that he's seeking. At the same time, he has the drive to control people, to rule them and make them think as he thinks. He doesn't truly realize that he cannot do this, he cannot force people to love him, to think as he thinks, cannot bribe them into submission, until Susan leaves him.

    I can't do this to you!
    (she looks at him)
    Oh, yes I can.
Wynand, alternatively, comes to the realization on his own, when he realizes that he has to betray Howard Roark. Wynand always saw himself as powerful, dictating what others thought, said and did. In truth, however, they controlled him.

    Speeding in the subways under your feet. Crawling up in elevators through vertical cracks around you. Jolting past you in every bus. Your masters, Gail Wynand. There is a net- longer than the cables that coil through the walls of this city, larger than the mesh of pipes that carry water, gas and refuse- there is another hidden net around you; it is strapped to you, and the wires lead to every hand in the city. They jerked the wires and you moved. You were a ruler of men. You held a leash. A leash is only a rope with a noose at both ends.
    ~The Fountainhead, 691
    Poor, poor Gail Wynand! He was not born to be a second-hander. But then again, neither was Kane. The difference? One chose this, the other had it inflicted upon him.
      Roark looked at him and realized that he had said all the things he had tried not to say to Wynand. He answered:

      "That you weren't born to be a second-hander."

      Wynand smiled. He heard the sentence- and nothing else.

      Afterward, when Wynand had gone below to his cabin, Roark remained alone on the deck. He stood at the rail, staring out at the ocean, at nothing.

      He thought: I haven't mentioned to him the worst second-hander of all- the man who goes after power.

      ~The Fountainhead, 636
    Compare this to Kane, who knows what he is and that it is not what he was meant for:
    So, there's the one who craves love while simultaneously wishing to be other than he is, but taking on his role because it is the only one that is left to him. Then there's the other who believes that he has gained the power he so desperately wanted, and can save all those he loves. Both are crushed, both defeated, but Wynand's defeat comes about because he does care; he cares about Roark. Kane's defeat is because he does not care, for anyone or anything, except for a past which he cannot regain.

    Who is the more to be pitied? They both suffer. Kane loses his wife's innocent love (she's more like Katie than Dominique, however) and alienates Leland (a cowardly version of Roark.) I think, however, that it may be Kane, for while Wynand loses his crusade and hence realizes that he has lived a worthless life, at least he has been able to know and love Dominique and Roark. Kane has no such comfort.

    It's interesting that Citizen Kane came out in 1941 and The Fountainhead came out in 1943. I don't think Rand stole the idea from Kane; it simply occurs to me that this must have been an idea that resonated with the people of the time. Kane, I see, is based on real-life figures and personalities; Wynand is described in Rand's notes as "a man who rules the mob only as long as he says what the mob wants him to say. What happens when he tries to say what he wants. A man who could have been." He's more symbolic than real.

    Both characters build themselves palaces- but Xanadu is a tomb, whereas the Wynand Building is a testimony to Roark's spirit. Kane is destroyed; Wynand immortalized. Yes, it is Kane more than Wynand who is to be pitied. Kane was destroyed by others; Wynand destroyed himself. Like, Satan, it occurs to me.

      they themselves ordain'd thir fall.
      The first sort by thir own suggestion fell,
      Self-tempted, self-deprav'd: Man falls deceiv'd
      By the other first: Man therefore shall find grace,
      The other none: in Mercy and Justice both,
      Through Heav'n and Earth, so shall my glorie excel,
      But Mercy first and last shall brightest shine.

      (Paradise Lost, Book 3)
    Satan and the angels were self-tempted, self-depraved. Man, on the other hand, "falls deceiv'd" and therefore shall find grace. Wynand, too, freely chose to grapple for power; he is self-tempted, self-depraved. Kane, however, was sold into his lot by his mother, who was laboring under the misconception that she was helping him. He did not pursue wealth; he was given it. He "falls deceiv'd." He lashes out, is cruel and unkind and acts almost like a dictator, but all this stems from the fact that he cannot love and is not loved. It is worse because once he could command this love; his newspaper dictated what others thought. Now it is not so...and he confines himself to gloomy Xanadu, there to die, wishing for the past.


    M.R. said...

    Why did he make Susan keep singing? I'd pick a different quote: "I won't be made ridiculous."

    Loved *and* respected Kane must be.

    Anonymous said...

    Im sorry I was tracking down down a lead and got lead here, ,..the reason citizen cane resembles the fountain head is because of William Randolph Hearst, and his relationship with Julia Morgan.

    GreyRomance said...

    Exactly - "Citizen Kane's" Kane, and "The Fountainhead's" Wynand are both loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst, the great American newspaper publisher.