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Archives > "Marilyn" 1953-1958

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message 1: by Diane (last edited Jan 30, 2018 04:15PM) (new)

Diane Zwang | 1214 comments Mod
1. "You are going to imagine that in the same space you occupy with your own, real body there exists another body- the imaginary body of your character, which you have created in your mind" - Michael Chekhov, To the Actor. Explain how this quote fits Marilyn to a T.

2. What do you think about The Ex-Athlete? Was he a good influence on Marilyn?

3. New York. Marilyn heads out East. What do you make of her departure from Hollywood? Is it good for her career? Good for her life?

4. The Dark Prince seems to take many forms. One of his personas in this section seems to be Marlon Brando but who or what does he represent?

5. Marilyn calls every significant other Daddy. Clearly the author is making a point about Marilyn searching for a father figure. Do you agree with this plot line?

6. What do you think of husband number three, Arthur Miller?

7. What are your thoughts on the ending of this section? Abrupt?

Please feel free to add any questions, comments or thoughts.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 1. "You are going to imagine that in the same space you occupy with your own, real body there exists another body- the imaginary body of your character, which you have created in your mind" - Michael Chekhov, To the Actor. Explain how this quote fits Marilyn to a T.

It seems as though Norma Jean was acting 24/7 instead of only while on the set. She changed her looks, changed everything about herself, named the new look Marilyn and then she carried the mask everywhere, wore it... she played Marilyn and nobody ever saw Norma Jean again.


2. What do you think about The Ex-Athlete? Was he a good influence on Marilyn?

I believe this is Joe DiMaggio. I do think they loved each other. But I don't know if she ever had anyone who was a truly good influence on her. However, I do know he tried to get her back and to be better for her. He also sent flowers to her grave weekly. Of all the men in her life, it is my impression he was the best for her.

3. New York. Marilyn heads out East. What do you make of her departure from Hollywood? Is it good for her career? Good for her life?

I don't think it mattered... I think she wanted to become less "swallowed up" by Hollywood. But I think it was impossible to escape at that point. And, I don't think she knew how to shed the mask anymore either.

4. The Dark Prince seems to take many forms. One of his personas in this section seems to be Marlon Brando but who or what does he represent?

Not sure about this. I think he is just another man whom Marilyn allowed to influence her negatively. He was a bit of a jerk to her I think. But it seems like every man she allowed in was a bit of a jerk to her.

5. Marilyn calls every significant other Daddy. Clearly the author is making a point about Marilyn searching for a father figure. Do you agree with this plot line?

I think it was probably true. It would be interesting to know exactly how accurate the book is though.

6. What do you think of husband number three, Arthur Miller?

He was awful. I think he tore her heart to shreds. He was arrogant and hurtful.

7. What are your thoughts on the ending of this section? Abrupt?
Not sure I thought anything. Abrupt yes, but kind of like a cliffhanger. And her life feels like it was filled with abrupt endings so the book seems like it is setting the right tone and pace.


message 3: by Diane (last edited Feb 10, 2018 04:17PM) (new)

Diane | 2022 comments 1. "You are going to imagine that in the same space you occupy with your own, real body there exists another body- the imaginary body of your character, which you have created in your mind" - Michael Chekhov, To the Actor. Explain how this quote fits Marilyn to a T.

Marilyn Monroe was two people - the real person, Norma Jean, and the character of Marilyn Monroe. Her imaginary character took over the real person.

2. What do you think about The Ex-Athlete? Was he a good influence on Marilyn?

He wasn't a good influence. He restricted her and beat her. I also found him to be shallow in how he arranged their relationship. He wanted to date her solely based on her looks, like a trophy. Perhaps the real DiMaggio was different than the "Ex-Athlete depicted in the book.

3. New York. Marilyn heads out East. What do you make of her departure from Hollywood? Is it good for her career? Good for her life?

I think she needed to get away and have a normal life for a while. She probably would have stayed away longer if things didn't go the way they did.

4. The Dark Prince seems to take many forms. One of his personas in this section seems to be Marlon Brando but who or what does he represent?

I think she was always searching for the "Dark Prince", but he was always just out of reach. He did take many forms throughout the book.

5. Marilyn calls every significant other Daddy. Clearly the author is making a point about Marilyn searching for a father figure. Do you agree with this plot line?

Yes, definitely. She didn't have an actual father figure in her childhood so she was trying to find that father figure in the men in her life.

6. What do you think of husband number three, Arthur Miller?

In general, don't think much of men who leave their wives for other women. He started out alright, but emotionally disconnected from her after she lost the baby. She needed more from him during this vulnerable time in her life. He also wasn't very honest with her.

7. What are your thoughts on the ending of this section? Abrupt?

Yes, very. I was disappointed in this transition.


message 4: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1268 comments http://jamesgrissom.blogspot.co.nz/20...

This is Marlon Brando’s take on Marilyn. I thought this was rather perfect.


message 5: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1268 comments 1) Marilyn is a role to Norma Jean but one that has taken over at times.
2) The Ex-Athlete (in Oates story) could not even see Norma Jean and was looking for an innocent Marilyn but Marilyn could not be innocent. He was horrible to her.
3) I think that Norma Jean, Marilyn and “the mother to be” were all mixed up in Norma’s mind but generally going east was good for Marilyn...it allowed her to be a real actress. It allowed her to beat the studio system. Plus it allowed her to escape the pills and drugs.
4) Carlos (Marlon Brando) really seemed to understand Marilyn AND Norma....both the thrill and the horror of being a focus of other people’s fantasies. He was her twin again. However, although he could understand her, he could not help her just as he could not help himself.
5) I rather appreciate the depiction of Arthur Miller. He took Norma Jean as she was and did not ask her to be anything else except to not do drugs. However, he couldn’t save her either.
6) yes, very abrupt!!!!
I have been thinking a great deal about fictionalized biography. It is something that happens a great deal in order to make a film of someone’s life. It is understood that the movie does not have to match reality if it is not a documentary. Yet, to write a fictionalized novel about such a well known person and to have so much of it not match reality is constantly disturbing to me. It constantly pulls me out of the book. I have to look up what “really” happened although of course what is on the internet is not “reality” either. I have read some fictionalized biography that I have loved (Wolfe’s Hall) but in general it is a very odd format. At this point in my reading I am thinking that Oates is writing about our collective obsession with someone named Marilyn and not about a human at all.


message 6: by Dree (new)

Dree | 243 comments So, I am still in this section, but just finished the Joe DiMaggio parts.

I am finding this book wonderfully paced and I enjoy it, but it also really infuriates me how Oates put words into peoples' mouths, manipulated actual events to prove some point (we discussed this in The Girl section, I believe, where the childhood Oates portrays is not the one she had). I find it very very hard to discuss it since I feel like we are discussing a biography, but it totally isn't.

My grandfather grew up with the DiMaggio brothers in North Beach. My grandparents attended Joe DiMaggio's first wedding (or, as it was called in my family, "the real one") at Sts Peter and Paul, and they were also married there. Does anyone's copy have any sort of bibliography in the back? The DiMaggios were Sicilian, yet Oates keeps mentioning risotto. Risotto is a Po Valley food (the north). The DiMaggios would most likely be speaking dialect (Sicilian) at a family gathering, not Italian. Where did she source this? Basically, here are all of these little things that don't seem right, and seem like more than "artistic license"--they strike me as laziness. And here is this one little section that I actually know something, it makes me question the other sections even more.

She also mentions the DiMaggios living on Beach Street in the Marina (and the younger kids and the parents were there in the 1940 census)--if this is where Marilyn visited, my dad and grandparents were just east on Beach about 3-4 blocks at that time. I need to ask my dad about this lol.

I also assume she used the term "ex-athlete" to avoid being sued by a descendant. Perhaps that could also be why she has a Sicilian woman obsessed with risotto?


message 7: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 3958 comments Mod
I am not going to answer each question. Marilyn and her relationship with men does not appeal to me. However, it fits that she is looking for "Daddy" but that is what makes this section so hard to find anything redeeming in it.

If this is Marilyn's inner life, maybe she is the one who never really understood these men. Maybe Dimaggio was just Italian and she never understood the difference and then Arthur Miller was "Jewish". Marilyn married "ideas" not men.

I really liked Arthur Miller but he was treated badly by Marilyn.

Yes, I agree, that when reading a fictionalized biography where does one draw the line. It's hard to keep the facts straight. Maybe that is the point. Marilyn never was anything but what other created her to be, even the author Joyce Carol Oates.

Dree: I think what you have written is so very interesting.


message 8: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1353 comments 1. Norma was the real body, Marilyn was the imaginary body of the character she played. Oates mentioned several times that Marilyn was able to disappear into Norma and nobody recognised her as Marilyn. Then a third layer was added when she was playing a role in a movie.
2. Oates portrayed The Ex-Athlete as a macho man who could not deal with Marilyn's independence and popularity. He loved her but he could not share her with her fans and he could not cope with the adoration and sexual excitement she created. She wanted to create a family but was not a good fit with his family. He wanted to be good for her but the very attributes which attracted him to her were the ones he couldn't cope with.
3. It was a very brave and independent move to defy the Studio and break her contract. She was looking for authenticity and the opportunity to prove herself as a serious actor. She was a huge hit on the stage and she met Arthur Miller. Both were good for her career.
4. I thought that Marlon Brando was himself, not representing any one else. I still am puzzled by how and where a Dark Prince turns up. Thanks for the quote, Gail, that was beautiful.
5. We don't know that Marilyn really called all her men Daddy, but she did choose older, already married men, so one can deduce she was searching for a father figure.
6. Marilyn went from marrying one of the biggest sports stars of all time to marrying one of the leading intellectuals of the day. She was seduced by Miller's words. She was craving respect as an intelligent woman, so being with Miller was a means to that end. She was able to discuss things with him, although he tried to influence what she read and thought about. He loved her too and was more emotionally mature than DiMaggio.
7. I have not read past the end of this section so it seemed a fitting place to finish.


message 9: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
1. "You are going to imagine that in the same space you occupy with your own, real body there exists another body- the imaginary body of your character, which you have created in your mind" - Michael Chekhov, To the Actor. Explain how this quote fits Marilyn to a T.

I like what Pip has said about this NJ was the real person, Marilyn was the persona and she also took on characteristics of anybody else she played.

2. What do you think about The Ex-Athlete? Was he a good influence on Marilyn?

No he wasn't he was an abusive husband who wanted the pin-up Marilyn but when he hadn't her he couldn't accept that she already had a life and career beyond him or that she was more famous.

3. New York. Marilyn heads out East. What do you make of her departure from Hollywood? Is it good for her career? Good for her life?

This was a good decision for her as the Studio then realise how valuable she is as an asset her salary is increased and she gets a greater say in what she performs in and who she performs with. New York also gave her a chance to properly study acting and to prove that she was capable of stage work.

According to Wikipedia this break from the Studio also allowed her to set up her own filming company Marilyn Monroe Productions and it was this company that was in part responsible for the overhaul of the studio system in Hollywood.

4. The Dark Prince seems to take many forms. One of his personas in this section seems to be Marlon Brando but who or what does he represent?

Marlon Brando is a male version of Marilyn they are both living as their personas but they communicate with each other in their real names. In the realms of the book both appear as delicate characters for whom suicide is an attractive prospect.

As Gail's quote shows Brando was her true friend even after her death he didn't betray her by doing a kiss and tell story.

5. Marilyn calls every significant other Daddy. Clearly the author is making a point about Marilyn searching for a father figure. Do you agree with this plot line?

I find the use of "Daddy" for a lover creepy but I do think that as an abandoned child who never knew who her father was Marilyn was more than likely looking for a father figure.

6. What do you think of husband number three, Arthur Miller?

I think he genuinely loved her, he was doing his best to be supportive and encourage her career. I think he realised he had taken on too much and that NJ would need more than he could give but at least he had faith.

7. What are your thoughts on the ending of this section? Abrupt?

The ending is rather abrupt but it seems fitting, that section was Marilyn and this was really starting to show her leaving Marilyn behind.


message 10: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
Dree wrote: "So, I am still in this section, but just finished the Joe DiMaggio parts.

I am finding this book wonderfully paced and I enjoy it, but it also really infuriates me how Oates put words into peoples..."


Hi Dree, my copy has a bibliography at the front which lists the following books:

Legend: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe by Fred Guiles
Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers
Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress by Carl E Rollyson Jr
Marilyn Monroe by Graham McCann
Marilyn by Norman Mailer


message 11: by Jenni (last edited Mar 31, 2018 04:59PM) (new)

Jenni (sprainedbrain) | 71 comments 1. "You are going to imagine that in the same space you occupy with your own, real body there exists another body- the imaginary body of your character, which you have created in your mind" - Michael Chekhov, To the Actor. Explain how this quote fits Marilyn to a T.

I agree with what others have said - Norma Jeane seems to have been the real person, and Marilyn was a character that she played almost all the time, to the point that it seems she wasn't really Norma Jeane at all anymore.

2. What do you think about The Ex-Athlete? Was he a good influence on Marilyn?

He was terrible - he wanted her because she was sexy pinup girl, but then once he had her, he abused her for those same reasons.

3. New York. Marilyn heads out East. What do you make of her departure from Hollywood? Is it good for her career? Good for her life?

I think it was a good thing for her career and her life - she proved herself to be an actor, and she got more freedom to do what she wanted with her career.

4. The Dark Prince seems to take many forms. One of his personas in this section seems to be Marlon Brando but who or what does he represent?

I really struggle with it when Dark Prince shows up - I'm not sure I ever quite got that throughout the book. I read Brando to just be Brando. He seemed like a friend who Marilyn could relate to.

5. Marilyn calls every significant other Daddy. Clearly the author is making a point about Marilyn searching for a father figure. Do you agree with this plot line?

It does make sense, since she never had a father figure growing up, but it's really creepy.

6. What do you think of husband number three, Arthur Miller?

I think he really loved her, but he ultimately wasn't able to save her. I think that she was as happy with him as ever before in the book.

7. What are your thoughts on the ending of this section? Abrupt?

Very abrupt - I guess I thought it would be more drawn out!


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