Marilyn : Fragments of Suicide Notes

lonelyOccasionally Marilyn dabbled in visual art and in poetry. She was quite well-read, had favourite authors and poets, and also appreciated the arts in general. One picture she quickly sketched for a friend one afternoon was of Marilyn as a little girl in a dress, standing alone, one sock fallen down around her ankle. She called it `lonely.“ The sketch was notable not for its artistic bent but for the message behind it. Even in her creative moments Marilyn couldn`t escape her loneliness and depression.

Some of Marilyn`s poetry was no less bleak.

help help
help
I feel life coming closer
when all I want to do
is die

Don’t cry my doll
Don’t cry
I hold you and rock you to sleep
Hush hush
I’m pretending now
I’m not your mother who died.

When the hourglass
takes off its dress,
the sand loosens and spreads.
You cannot find a footing
in me. They always said
I was terrible in bed.

O, Time
Be Kind
Help this weary being
To forget what is sad to remember
Loose my loneliness,
Ease my mind,
While you eat my flesh.

oh damn I wish that I were dead
absolutely non-existent
gone away from here from everywhere
but how would there is always bridges –
the brooklyn bridge but I love that
bridge (everything is beautiful from
there and the air is so clean)
walking it seems peaceful even with
all those cars going crazy underneath
So it would have to be some other
bridge an ugly one and with no view –
except i like in particular all bridges –
there`s something about them and I`ve
never seen an ugly bridge

Currently suicide researchers are using Marilyn’s writings for clues to actual suicide notes. They regard Marilyn’s writings, poetry and art as possible forewarnings of her eventual suicide. Many of marilynthe letters, poems, and personal notes that Monroe wrote in the years leading up to her death were recently collected in a single book, Marilyn Monroe’s Fragments, published in 2012 (fabulous book – I recommend it). The article about suicide researchers using Marilyn’s work was written by Mercedes Fernandez-Cabana of the Psychiatry Department University Hospital Complex of Ourense, Spain and her colleague. It provides the results of a Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) study of Fragments. First the text was analyzed to determine how emotional impact can be reflected by how people write, LIWC assessed on a word-by-word basis to calculate how often words in specific categories are used (i.e., positive or negative emotions, psychological concerns, and possible pathology). Using the dated material in Fragments as a timeline leading up to Monroe’s death, researchers grouped Fragments materials into four time periods ending in 1962. Analysis showed a rise in health concerns, death issues and personal pronoun use over time. Also, the period just before Marilyn’s death showed a decrease in negative emotions, anxiety, and religious ideas. Often when people decide to commit suicide, their mood begins to improve: soon their suffering will be over and they can transition into “a better place.”

Research using LIWC to examine notes and letters left behind by people who committed suicide suggest that suicidal intention might be identified by language cues in what is written in the time fragments-fr21-224x300leading up to death. Different word trends seen in  writings up to the time of death includes changes in positive and negative emotional statements, an increase in use of pronouns, words associated with insight, as well as being more present-oriented. These changes became more apparent in the time immediately preceding the suicide. Of course this analysis presumes that Marilyn did indeed commit suicide. In discussing Monroe’s death, Fernandez-Cabana avoided commenting on the theories that were raised about her being murdered for political reasons. The lack of notes written in the few weeks leading up to Marilyn’s death means that important data may be missing from the final analysis. I’m of a mind that if Marilyn truly feared she was at risk of being murdered she would have (a) sought police surveillance and (b) recorded her fears in her writings. Most suicide notes are too brief to provide meaningful analysis, but research using text analysis have turned up meaningful differences between notes left by men and women. Many writers who committed suicide have also been studied including Sara Teasdale and Sylvia Plath.

An example of Plath’s work that truly reveals suicidal intentions includes her poem entitled “Daddy“:

Daddy

  by Sylvia Plath

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew (Plath was Jewish).
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You-- 

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not 
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

12 October 1962 (Interesting that the date Plath wrote the poem was in 1962 – two months after Marilyn’s suicide and one year before her own suicide on February 11, 1963 – the same year JFK was assassinated).

Although the poem shares a similarity with Marilyn’s Don’t Cry My Doll in that it is about a mother sylvia-plath-portr_2474845b1who has abandoned her child and died (certainly a reference to Gladys), Plath’s poem also refers to the Facist regime; the reference to Daddy refers to the Fuhrer (Hitler – meaning Father). Plath’s poem states she is “through” – meaning dead and abandoning any hope. Marilyn’s poem O Time Be Kind, stating “Ease my mind While you eat my flesh” certainly bears similarly to the fate of Jews in concentration camps, even if Marilyn was unconscious of that fact when she wrote it. Interestingly, Plath didn’t truly mean to kill herself, just as Marilyn did not. She placed her head in a gas oven (terribly reminiscent of the camps) but expected her husband to be home within a short period of time, quick enough to save her, which obviously didn’t happen. Like Marilyn Plath had made previous suicide attempts: two to be precise. She wrote a poem about it entitled Lady Lazarus: Lazaus being the man Jesus restored to life after he was entombed. The opening line is: “I have done it again – One year in every ten I manage it—-“ (meaning she made two suicide attempts one decade apart from each other). The third decade ended in her death. An interesting work by Plath (a “non-fiction novel” is The Bell Jar, about a girl who slowly loses her mind, believing she is separated from society by an invisible bell-shaped jar she wears). Plath committed suicide one month after its publication.

Just as Marilyn’s suicide coincided with an increased suicide rate across the country, the Sylvia Plath effect was coined by psychologist James Kaufman in 2001 to refer to the phenomenon that poets are more susceptible to mental illness than other creative writers. Although many studies have demonstrated that creative writers are prone to suffer from mental illness, this relationship has not been examined in depth. This early finding has been dubbed “the Sylvia Plath effect.”

Gloria Steinem wrote a moving account about Marilyn’s life and death. A summary she made included the ideas that after Marilyn`s death people wondered if they could have saved her. What signs did they miss. monroeWomen wonder if they could have befriended her, men wonder if they could have loved her enough to have saved her. Marilyn brings a rescue fantasy into people`s minds. However Marilyn had the best psychiatric care from Dr. Greenson, friends who did care about her and were frequent visitors and confidantes, long-term lovers, including her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, and a general sense of satisfaction over her work after the creation of Bus Stop. Her loneliness wasn`t something anyone could resolve for her. It was Marilyn`s journey and her journey alone. No one else could live her life for her.

A stone that led to Marilyn’s front door in her Brentwood home read Cursom Percifico: (my journey is over). Another fragment written as a poem..

I turned to look back and there she stood, very still and strangely forlorn. I thought then of her reaction earlier when I had asked if many friends had called up to rally round when she was fired by Fox. There was silence, and sitting very straight, eyes wide and hurt, she had answered with a tiny, “No”.  –  Richard Meryman

Her tortured soul and brutal honesty makes her even more endearing to us. Because she’s human…and a damn good writer…and a smart woman who wows with her natural beauty. And there will never be anything or anyone like her, again. –  Carling Uhler

She would often hand me a scrap of paper with something written on it & ask, ‘Do you think this is poetry? Keep it & let me know.’ Or she’d send a scribbled sheet in the mail asking for criticism. I would always encourage her. The poems were, in the best sense, those of an amateur; that is, they pretended to be nothing more than an outburst of feeling, with little or no knowledge of the craft. But the poet within her – & one existed – found a form for her purpose.”    –   Norman Rosten

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