After the Fall Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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Describe Maggie as a dramatic representation of Marylin Monroe in Miller's After the Fall.

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After the Fall by Arthur Miller is generally viewed as an autobiographical work and a reflection of the playwright’s failed relationships with the important women in his adult life, including the wives in his two failed marriages. One of the key characters in the play, Maggie, is a dramatic representation of Marilyn Monroe, Miller's second wife. There are many parallels between Marilyn Monroe and Maggie. In fact, just as Marilyn was Miller's second wife, Maggie is the second wife of Quentin, the protagonist of the play and presumably Miller’s fictional alter ego. Moreover, just as Quentin and Maggie were married in 1956, Miller married Monroe in 1956.

Marilyn Monroe was America’s love goddess; an unobtainable sexual being who breathlessly sang “Happy Birthday” in public to the president of the United States. Maggie is also beautiful, and men are greatly attracted to her. Like Marilyn, she is also out of the reach of most ordinary men.

Another similarity is that Maggie is abandoned by her parents. Marilyn never knew who her father was. Her mother could not take care of Marilyn and placed her in foster care. Perhaps because of this, both women are emotionally needy (according to people who knew Marilyn). For instance, Maggie is jealous even on her wedding day when Quentin and Elsie kiss. Maggie asks Quentin,

And you…you won’t ever look at any woman, right? ... why did you kiss that Elsie? ... why’d you let rub her body against you?

Like Marilyn and Miller, Maggie and Quentin could not be more different from one another. Miller was a New York intellectual. Marilyn was America’s sex symbol, whose career was built on playing the dumb blond. Similarly, Quentin is a New York liberal attorney. They meet when Maggie works as a secretary at his office. The implication is that he is intellectually superior, and Miller presumably felt he was Marilyn’s intellectual superior.

In fact, Maggie takes Quentin very seriously just as, presumably, Marilyn took the celebrated playwright Miller seriously and looked up to him. For instance, the following dialogue illustrates this, when Maggie refers to Quentin as a king and someone who helps people. Maggie reads Quentin’s diary and is hurt:

Maggie: What about your hatred? You know when I wanted to die. When I read what you wrote, kiddo. Two months after we were married, kiddo.

Quentin: Let’s keep it true – you told me you tried to die long before you met me.

Maggie: So you’re not even there huh? I didn’t even meet you. You coward! What about your hatred! [she moves front.] I was married to a king, you son of a bitch! I was looking for a fountain pen to sign some autographs. And there’s his desk [she is speaking towards some invisible source of justice now, telling her injury] and there’s his empty chair where he sits and thinks how to help people. And there’s his handwriting. And there’s some words…

Maggie self-medicates with alcohol and pills, just as Marilyn did. Marilyn is believed to have attempted suicide many times in real life. Maggie’s suicide attempts and death in the play mimic Marilyn’s. Maggie and Marilyn are also similar in age at the time of their deaths: they are each 36 when they die.

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