ELA: The Death of Marilyn Monroe Analysis

Who wrote this poem?
Sharon Olds

When was this poem written?
1984

Who was Marilyn Monroe married to?
Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller

Who was Marilyn Monroe?
A 1950s film sex symbol

Who did Marilyn Monroe allegedly have affairs with?
John and Bobby Kennedy

When did Marilyn Monroe die?
1962

How did Marilyn Monroe die?
An overdose of sleeping pills

How old was Marilyn Monroe when she died?
36

What does this poem develop?
A tension between her fame and the effects of ordinary people who encountered her shortly after her death

What is this poem?
A brief meditation on mortality, sexuality, and celebrity

What is the only part of this poem that identifies Marilyn Monroe?
The title

What does the poem really concentrate on?
The “ambulance men” who transported her corpse

What does the first stanza describe?:
“The ambulance men touched her cold
body, lifted it, heavy as iron,
onto the stretcher, tried to close
the mouth, closed the eyes, tied the
arms to the side, moved a caught
strand of hair, as if it mattered,
saw the shape of her breasts, flattened by
gravity, under the sheet,
carried her, as if it were she,
down the steps.”
The physical interaction between the ambulance man and Monroe’s body

What do lines 3-5 mean?:
“onto the stretcher, tried to close
the mouth, closed the eyes, tied the
arms to the side, moved a caught”
Her dead body is being manipulated

What does line 7 mean?:
“saw the shape of her breasts, flattened by”
Mortality has brought her down to earth

What does line 9 mean?:
“carried her, as if it were she,”
In death, she can no longer feel; she is no longer associated with her famous name

What does line 11 mean?:
“These men were never the same.”
The focus of the poem is “those men”

Why is the word “impotence” used in line 17? What does this suggest?
The sight of Marilyn’s dead body unmaned one of the men; it suggest the larger theme of how sexuality is shaped by cultural myths

What does the repetition of “woman” and “breathing” call attention to in lines 23-26?:
“in the doorway to a room of sleep, listening to a
woman breathing, just an ordinary
woman
breathing.”
The issues of gender and mortality

What do lines 23-26 also symbolize?:
“in the doorway to a room of sleep, listening to a
woman breathing, just an ordinary
woman
breathing.”
The man’s wife is breathing in an ordinary way unlike the body of Monroe which is not ordinary; in death, Marilyn is stripped of her glamour