Lost in Xanadu: Hedonism and Eudaimonia in ‘Citizen Kane’

This quote looms large in American cinema. Citizen Kane itself has been the subject of many essays and op-eds since the film’s debut back in 1941. This examination will probably be no different in the grand scheme of things adding to the pile, but let’s focus on the idea of hedonism and eudaimonia, as greatly explained in the YouTube video accompanied with the assignment.

Hedonism idealizes the idea of the pursuit of happiness. Those, like internet celebrity Dan Blizerian, using this to fuel his extravagant with cars, women and cocaine. Eudaimonia relates to flourishing from the ground up in order to make your own happiness. Virgin mogul Richard Branson fits this bill with his empire built from selling music out of his dorm room to become a multi-billionaire philanthropist. The fictitious Charles Foster Kane is a particularly interesting case in which he exhibits both traits. Kane came from little-to-no money, only to be thrown into wealth to become a near-mirror image of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Welles portrays Kane with grace and sophistication to convey the balancing act of these two concepts.

When it comes to the Hedonism side of Kane’s life, this is invoked within the opening News bulletin reporting of his death. Basically the preamble of the film, the news focuses on the growth and beginnings of Kane before the movie gives us the full details. The reel focuses on the landmark of Kane’s excessive wealth with his home in Florida known as Xanadu, minus Olivia Newton-John. It is a paradise similar to a holiday resort. It is a landmark comprised of buildings in different architectural styles, houses two of every animal “not since Noah before him.” and various statues. This is only to prove to the world he is indeed one of the richest people.

As for eudaimonia, that is delivered through his choice to get into the paper industry that his new guardian William Thatcher has a handle on. Here is is dedicated to making honest news available to those who need it and well as use it as a means to make money. This tact of wanting the best for humanity is stated clearly in his speech to run for president. He exclaims in a speech “I’ll do everything in my power to protect the privileged, the underpaid and underfed.”

Yet, Kane has had humanity somewhat gets weighted under the needs of hedonism, but the eudaimonia still interjects into his life every now and then when giving his heart and dedication to those he loves. This is seen with his connection to Susan Alexander and how he uses his money to help garner singing lessons to improve on her dreams, but even hedonism rears its ugly head when he build a whole opera house just to house her singing talents.

Citizen Kane is still a marvel of cinema and being able to dissect it a bit further to discover Kane’s hidden clash of hedonism and eudaimonia adds more weight to it outside of its incredible cinematic techniques. That, in itself, is something worth applauding for.

One thought on “Lost in Xanadu: Hedonism and Eudaimonia in ‘Citizen Kane’

  1. Wonderful writing. As you see, you can always add to the pile of essays and op-eds about anything, including “Citizen Kane.” Thanks for your post, embedded videos and Kane’s giffy clapping hands.


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