Questions for Group Discussion
1) How does this book differ from a traditional biography? How about from a traditional autobiography?
2) Dr. Dale spends some time analyzing the combination of childishness and sexiness that constitute Marilyn’s appeal (p. 32). Do you think this description accurately reflects her personality as well? Use examples of Marilyn’s behavior to support your position.
3) Marilyn is abused by a succession of foster fathers. Why does she need reassurance that this is not her fault? Discuss the shame often associated with sexual assault, as well as the reactions of both Aunt Grace and Dr. Dale.
4) How does Marilyn feel about each of her parents? What are some of the adult behaviors that she attributes to these feelings? Do you agree with the connections she draws in this way?
5) Marilyn does not choose to live alone until age 35. What would you say is Marilyn’s conception of home life? Which of her guardians would you give the most responsibility for this impression?
6) What is Marilyn’s situation in life when she first transitions to modeling? What makes her new career so appealing? Does this appeal continue as her fame grows?
7) Marilyn refers most positively to love in the context of her fame, her fans, and even the camera. Is the love directed towards her the same as what she describes as loving an “institution” (p. 175-6)? Why or why not? What about the love she feels in return?
8) How does Marilyn feel about fame? What does she see as its benefits? Its burdens? Its responsibilities? What is her view of movie stardom in particular?
9) Marilyn claims to despise men who try to buy her body with money and favors (p.48), but also sleeps with several of the men who further her career, like Johnny Hyde and Joe Schenck. What is the distinction? What does this tell us about Marilyn’s view of sex?
10) Marilyn pursues serious acting roles while also prioritizing the value of sex and sexiness. Does this combination help or hinder her career? Do you think society has changed in its reactions to feminine sexuality since Marilyn’s time?
11) How does Marilyn feel about nudity in films? Do you think this contradicts the way she feels about her own body? Why or why not?
12) Would you describe Marilyn as an idealist, a realist, or a cynic? Give some examples to support your answer.
13) Are there any common factors between the men Marilyn chooses to marry? What about between the failures of her marriages?
14) Marilyn is shocked to be rebuffed by a number of lovers, including Jack Kennedy and Yves Montand. Why are these rejections so surprising to her?
15) Marilyn loves intellectuals, and is insecure about her lack of formal education. What do you think of her intelligence? What value do you place on schooling?
16) Marilyn describes the loneliness that results from the jealousy and insecurity of others. Does Marilyn ever demonstrate these negative qualities herself? How does this impact her friendships?
17) Marilyn claims that she is unable to bring people along with her when she experiences personal growth. Do you feel this is an accurate representation of the end of her relationship with Natasha Lytess? What about Milton Greene? How does this differ from her fight with Frank Sinatra shortly before her death? How is it similar?
18) Marilyn shows enduring good feelings for Aunt Ana, Johnny Hyde, Lee Strasberg, and Joe DiMaggio, amongst others. What are the common traits of those she likes best?
19) What are Marilyn’s feelings about motherhood? Do you think she would make a good mother?
20) Marilyn is simultaneously confident and insecure; successful and struggling; optimistic and severely depressed. Can this paradox be resolved, or is it inherently contradictory? Discuss the chemical and psychological issues associated with depression.
21) Has this novel changed your thinking or broadened your perspective about Marilyn Monroe? Have you learned anything new about her?
22) Have you learned anything about yourself in reading the book? If so, what?
23) How did the past shape Marilyn’s life? Do you agree with the author that given Marilyn’s character and background no other ending to her life was possible?
24) What did you like or dislike about the book? How did you experience it? Were you amused, saddened, enlightened? Did it make you laugh or cry? Were you caught up in it immediately, or did it take you a while to become involved? Would you recommend it to a friend?
25) Describe Marilyn’s character, personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities. Do you know anyone like her? Do you admire her or are you critical of her?
26) Would you like to have been Marilyn Monroe?
27) Did any passages impress you as especially insightful or profound? What about the dialogue? Did any of it strike you as funny or poignant, or particularly encapsulate Marilyn’s character?
28) Have you any suggestions about a highly accomplished woman you would like Dr. Bond to write about?
29) If you could ask Dr. Bond any question, what would it be?
30) Have you read any of the other books Dr. Bond has written? If so, how does this book compare? Does this book inspire you to read any of the others?