An Analysis of Marilyn Monroe’s Life

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This is a research and psychoanalysis paper on Marilyn Monroe and the life that she lived. The first part explores many aspects of her life, starting with her childhood and ending in the passing of Marilyn. The start goes into her heritage and later discusses how that, and the rest of her life, affected her psychologically. The second aspect of this paper is the analysis of her psychologically, diving into the multiple psychological theories and perspectives and how her entire life is taken into context by these perspectives. Her personal views are all considered with these perspectives and how they made her the person she was. Lastly, this paper ends with personal thoughts and a reflection of how I felt individually toward the information given and researched.

An Analysis of Marilyn Monroe's Life

Marilyn Monroe. When those words were uttered in the 1940s through 60s, most all would associate a feeling of sensuality and womanhood. Marilyn had a life that was unlike a regular person's and she was remembered for several aspects of this life she lived. A woman of independence, grace, and sexual appeal, Monroe had a background that not many investigated during her lifetime, yet that had an impact on who she was, how she felt internally and how her life came to an end. Her life story, starting with her childhood, had an impact on many people and she will be remembered throughout history for her looks, career and various relationships in which she was involved, which all roots back to her psychological state and mental state of mind. A mystery in a nutshell, Marilyn Monroe is a woman to be studied and analyzed closely because of her disturbing childhood, life of fame, and tragic death, all making analyzers wonder, what was truly going on in her mind? 

Description of Marilyn Monroe's Life

        Marilyn Monroe did not start her life with the idolized name that we now call her; she was formally known as Norma Jean Mortenson. An innocent, young girl, starting out a life with a desperate need of love, Norma Jean was raised in orphanage and foster homes because her mother was admitted into a mental institution and her dad deserted her family when she was young. When looking in to the past of this little girl who became a woman too young, it is easy to see how her mother had an impact on her life. Norma Jean, or Marilyn Monroe, had a mother named Gladys Pearl, who was born in May of 1902. Gladys had her own struggles growing up, which rooted within her own upraising. Gladys' mother, Della, was married to a man named Otis Elmer Monroe, Gladys' father. Otis ended up dying mysteriously after a terrible sickness, which led to her mother having men in the house, left and right. (Spoto 5) So, as Marilyn's mother was on the edge of young adulthood, she was receiving mixed signals about marriage, family and parenthood from her own mother and was observing her mother's actions closely, which were implying that men were  [a necessity] to a woman's life. (Spoto 6) As life continued, Gladys branched off onto her own path, as her mother was not a fully dependable woman for her. She met new people and new men, and eventually had a child of her own, Norma Jean. Sadly, Norma Jean did not have good figures or leaders to look up to as she grew up, as her father abandoned her at a young age and her mother, Gladys, ended up being admitted to a mental hospital, due to her own mental disease and troubles. She later passed away, leaving Norma Jean alone. Catherina Henry makes a very accurate point on her childhood, stating that [Norma Jean's] genetic heritage did nothing to encourage her to envision a future as a responsible adult. (Henry 849) After her mother's passing, Norma Jean was put into the orphanage and fostering system, where she developed her initial sense of loneliness in life and she was defined as emotional neglect as a child. She became the victim of sexual abuse at the age of 8, and continued her life through the neglect and abuse that she had already faced at such a young age. (Haas 607) Norma Jean then married at 16 to avoid staying in the foster system and dependence on old family friends, to a man four years older.

Marriage spared Marilyn from further sexual abuse from older men and alleviated the obligation of family friends to care for her. (Haas 607) Soon after though, her husband went away to war and she found a job at the Radio Plane munitions plant, where she spent most of her time. At this job, she was discovered by a photographer who asked to photograph her for a shoot that encouraged women working while men were away at war. After this, the photographer helped her land a modeling contract, and she then dyed her then-brown locks to bleach blonde, divorced her husband, and started to pursue her personal interests of acting. Norma Jean was twenty at the time, and she quickly found good acting jobs, which led to her being the newest lead of talent at Twentieth Century Fox. This booming movie production company renamed Norma Jean as Marilyn, and she took Monroe as her new last name, which she based off of her grandmother's last name. Throughout her acting career, Marilyn Monroe was affected by her past, letting her own insecurities impact her life greatly. She did not quite know what to do with her fame and how to get the things that she wanted. Monroe [involved] herself repeatedly with men in general and also to score movie auditions. (Haas 607) So, this in itself did not lead to a long acting career for Marilyn and led to even more insecurities being created and dug up from her childhood.

Marilyn Monroe was known as a sex symbol throughout her life, as she radiated beauty and elegance. When she married again to baseball player Joe DiMaggio, he was possessive of her and most could not handle how sexualized she was in Hollywood, and in the eyes of other men. Not too long after, Marilyn married a well-known playwright named Arthur Miller, and soon after this she created her own company, named Marilyn Monroe Productions. Marrying Miller was something that Marilyn did for a variety of her own personal reasons, but one that was observed was so that she could be taken more seriously in the acting industry. This marriage ended up failing though, as Monroe's enormous psychological and emotional needs and her increased reliance on prescription drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of miscarriages, insomnia, and crippling stage fright weighed heavy on herself and other around her. (Haas 608) Because of her dwindling and declining mental state, Marilyn Monroe's acting career came to an end. Slowly, because of her own personal pain and psychological issues, including but not limited to, depression, anxiety, and being affected by abuse, Marilyn began to lose her spark and motivation in life. In August of 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found in her bed, her life lost to the effects of a barbiturate overdose.

Integration of Marilyn Monroe's Life with Psychological Theory

The number of negative events in Marilyn Monroe's life were vast and are truly sad to read. There are many different perspectives that can be used to analyze her life and that most definitely have to do with her psychological development and destruction. Looking into Marilyn's biology, it is seen that her inheritance had a big impact on her throughout her entire life. Her mother's psychological state is one of the biggest impacts on her genetically and biologically, as she inherited some of the same characteristics of strong anxiety and depression. Marilyn's mother, Gladys, had parents that were not secure and dependable, as one passed away and the other was more concerned with herself than her daughter. Gladys was most definitely psychologically affected by the upraising and it is easy to believe that this affected Marilyn biologically, as Gladys is the one who birthed her. Looking biologically, also, it can be observed that Marilyn's feelings were not always stable, and, in this day and time, they are detectors of biological and psychological issues in someone. But Marilyn was not only affected biologically, as there were many unconscious behaviors that had to do with her psychological state. Sigmund Freud studied the psychoanalytic and psychodynamic perspectives, which have to do with these unconscious thoughts and behaviors, and his studies reflect and relate to Marilyn Monroe. Mannie Sher talks about how there are several components to the unconscious mind and why it either inhibit or prohibits us from doing certain things or having certain behaviors. For example, Sher talks about anxiety and how that is something that can be an unconscious issue for people, and that with this acting against somebody in their unconscious mind, they might have issues [managing] themselves in their systematic roles. (Sher 1260) Marilyn started her life as a neglected, abused girl, and when she became older and started to get the attention that she did as a sex symbol, she took it and ran with it. To a certain extent, Monroe defined her own identity by what other people thought of her, and the anxiety of her losing that attention and fame was very real. The psychoanalytic state of mind was activated for Marilyn Monroe by this craving to maintain attention and fame, which shows that she was under pressure  from [herself and] from outside perspectives and opinions. (Sher 1260) Marilyn's behaviors are also something that can be deeply analyzed, in many aspects, as she acted certain ways because of her environment. Being a sex symbol, she had to have had her guard up to a certain extent, most likely not feeling safe at all times. Men were constantly staring at her, sexualizing her and considering her an object. This is not the best place to be in and would lead many women including Marilyn assumedly, to feel internally insecure and as if her outside if the only thing that matters. But, on the outside, Marilyn most always looked calm, cool and collected as she liked the attention she got, even when there were many people that made her feel uncomfortable, because of the way that she was viewed. Also, as a child her feeling of abandonment and loneliness most definitely could have led to her wanting to have attention, even if it was sexually. So, her collected behavior could have been a reflection of her persisting urge to be valued and wanted. Looking at Marilyn in a humanistic perspective, it is recognizable that she lacked in feelings of fulfillment and seemed to usually end up in a negative place internally rather than positive. Since humanistic perspective focuses on well-being based on self-image and some other factors, Marilyn Monroe is easily seen to be lacking in a stable perception of herself and life. Marilyn constantly wanted to maintain a perfect demeanor and flawless looks, which is not a healthy way to go about life, since as humans we are not flawless, and we do make mistakes. She was definitely motivated in some parts of her life; to reach her goals in acting, modeling and gaining the attention of others, but the dependence on others and getting their attention being the ultimate goal behind all of her others, is what was unhealthy for her mental state. In a humanistic perspective, it is not a healthy way to go about life because if feeling fulfilled and whole comes from dependence on others and their attention, your psychological state will end up deteriorating. As for Marilyn's cognitive state of mind, perception and problem solving are things to be analyzed in her life. Marilyn perception of things were once again, deep down, solely based on attention from other people, and wanting to be fulfilled by them. But this was not good for her mental health, as humans are not always dependable and will repeatedly let you down. So, her depending so much on others and their opinions of her was believed to have led to her depression and later overdose. Marilyn's perception of life was also affected by this dependence on others and finding her identity in other peoples' opinions of her. Her depression and mental decline are things that most definitely could have started with her dependence on others, which became such a significant element to her life originally because of her neglect as a child. Overall, Marilyn Monroe was psychologically affected in her life by many circumstances, starting with her childhood, which than led to a constant yearning for love and affection throughout her life, ending her life journey at a tragically young age.

Personal Thoughts and Reflection

Researching Marilyn Monroe has been one of the most interesting yet heartbreaking things to do. I was personally affected by this because it breaks my heart to think of somebody wanting and yearning for love so strongly that they want to take their own life, because the pain is too extensive. Seeing how Marilyn was affected psychologically throughout her life was very interesting to read about, as it really did root back to her childhood and even to her mother's childhood too. Marilyn did not necessarily meet my preconceived notions, because based on the information I have collected lightly over the years, I just thought of her as that woman who was a sex symbol to a lot of people and really popular for her beauty. (Spoken in my own casual, initial thoughts) I honestly did not even originally know how popular she had been for her acting, and I did not know that she started her own production company. What was challenged or brought up for me in my head throughout this analysis, was TRULY how hard it was for her to simply be viewed as a pretty girl. I would never want to be viewed purely for looks. Especially when trying to find someone to spend your life with, she not only had to deal with her fame but men truly only wanting her for her physical appearance. And that must have been extremely discouraging for her, making her think several times that being physically beautiful is all that she was worth. That specifically is so sad because what is on the inside is what is MOST important, because looks only go so far in your own self esteem. I imagine feeling beautiful on the outside but the opposite on the inside as an awful feeling, and to think that Marilyn may have experienced that based on what others thought of her, is so sad to me. I find it hard to say, if I was Marilyn  because I was not. I did not experience the childhood, pain or being viewed as an object like she did. But what I would say to her, if I could, is that she needs to not depend on other people. I personally think that since it is a given for humans to mess up, you can never fully depend on them. Family is one of the few things that I depend on, but she did not even have that. So, if I could speak to Marilyn Monroe, I would say, all you need is God. Humans are going to hurt you, doubt you and think you aren't enough, but you are always enough to God, and he loves you endlessly. That is my personal view on Marilyn Monroe and I am sad that her life had to end the way that it did, and that she experienced the pain that she did. I believe that she is in a better place now and I hope that I can be a light and a true friend to anyone and people that experience the kind of pain that she did, in their lives.

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An Analysis of Marilyn Monroe's Life. (2019, Aug 16). Retrieved March 3, 2024 , from

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