The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

the talented mr ripleyWhat Tom Ripley wanted is to be rich, and happy, but it is not possible yet. He goes around the streets, being a nobody, trying to avoid the cops left and right, from a possible recent crime. The story starts with Tom feeling that he is being followed. He tries to shake off whoever is following him, with the possible theory that he is being shadowed by the police. I could imagine him clearly in my mind, a thin man with a long coat and a hat to cover his face, and a pipe sticking out, looking as inconspicuous as possible.

When he is finally cornered by his follower, Tom finds out that (1) His follower is not a cop. (2) It is Mr.Greenleaf, the father of one of Tom’s old friends, Dickie Greenleaf, or rather, Richard Greenleaf. (3) Mr. Greenleaf, and his wife who suffers lukemia, (3) Tom is getting paid for a trip to Europe and for everything after that, under the condition that he has try and persuade Dickie to come home. Tom happily obliges.

When he finally meets Dickie, Tom figures out that Dickie is happy in Europe with a friend who is in love with him, Marge. But sadly, Dickie is not aware of her feelings. Tom finally knows that Dickie is quite reluctant to go back to America, with the vague plan of ‘going back’ to meet his parents in the winter time. I feel that was quite harsh. Even though you live out of town, your parents had raised you, and had taken care of you, and you repay them without even going to them for a visit. Although Dickie does not often visit them, his parents regularly sent him money so he can be happier in Europe.

Tom soon starts to enjoy Dickie’s life. They often go on boat rides and visit the bars together. They get drunk there. Dickie even invites Tom to come and live temporarily in his house. They starts to go out together even more, while Marge feels left out. It comes to the point where Marge starts talking to Dickie that Tom is weird.

When it is time for Tom to go home, Tom knows that he could actually walk into Dickie’s shoes by changing his hairstyle, wearing Dickie’s clothes, and forging Dickie’s signature. That would make him rich forever. So, on one boat trip, Tom takes out his oar and hits Dickie on the head, killing him in the end. To get rid of suspicion, Tom dumps Dickie’s body in the middle of the ocean, puts a hole in the boat to sink it, and he then becomes Dickie.

At first Tom is having fun being Dickie, but under the pressure of the cops wanting to know where ‘Tom’ is. That’s when Tom starts to have trouble with his identity. I think the main reason why this book is called The Talented Mr Ripley is because that Tom Ripley is an amoral, slightly disreputable young man, with no prospects, who occasionally moves in wealthy circles.. He uses all his talents; forgery and murder; and his ability to act and lie, to remain undetected as possible.

I could imagine the pressure Tom would feel, as he walked about, imitating first Dickie’s voice, then acting as himself when the cops wanted to know where did ‘Tom’ went of to, and when Tom did become himself, Dickie was asked where he went off too. There was a jumble of identity. This book shows that the most important moral is the duel between good and evil, and the feelings of guilt which evil brings. Tom is not sure whether he wants and will bring Dickie back home. Sometimes he is really sure that he will bring him back to New York, and later, he actually wants to kill Dickie. Once he killed Dickie, Tom is afraid and scared to be under suspicion.

The Talented Mr. Ripley remind us that we should reflect about every deed we do.

Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist and short story write, most widely known for her psychological thrillers, which led to about 24 movie adaptations.

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