What Is the Meaning of Rosebud in “Citizen Kane”?

Rosebud is the name of the sled given to Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) by the character’s mother which represents childhood comfort, security and innocence, according to SparkNotes. The sled is the last object Kane touches before being taken away from his mother, and “Rosebud” is the last word Kane utters before his death in “Citizen Kane.”

Rosebud represents the happiest moments of Kane’s early life. In a press release from 1941, Welles himself stated the “cheap little sled” stands for Kane’s subconscious need for simplicity, comfort and his mother’s love. Kane never fully abandoned these happy childhood memories, at least unconsciously. Wellesnet describes that Rosebud also stands for the lack of responsibility in the boy’s house as Walter Thatcher takes Kane away from his mother on the same day when the boy plays with his beloved sled.

At the end of the film, Rosebud burns in an incinerator as Kane’s possessions are destroyed. Welles stated the “dust heap” in Kane’s warehouse at the end of the film represents the hidden private life of a very public figure.

There are two sleds in the story – Rosebud and the aptly named Crusader. The second sled is the one given to Kane by Thatcher. Crusader’s name is ironic in that Kane spends most of his young adulthood in a vengeful ploy to bring down Thatcher.

Pop Matters reveals the two sleds represent several dualities in the film. One sled is about unconditional love and innocence, while the other stands for revenge and ruthlessness. Kane has two friends, two wives and two parents with seemingly different parenting styles. In the end of the movie, one symbolic conclusion is that an entire life can be wasted because of a burned childhood.