Essay: The Talented Mr Ripley – Analysis

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  • Subject area(s): English literature essays
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  • Published on: January 13, 2020
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  • The Talented Mr Ripley - Analysis
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The Talented Mr Ripley is a tale a deceit and jealousy which brings about the murder of his victims. The Tom Ripley of this novel is only trying to achieve another version of what we call the “American Dream.” Yet instead of using hard work and perseverance, he obtains it through fate. He starts off as a mere con man, tricking people of their money the easy way. His love for the finer things in life provokes this urge to con people yet he doesn’t like to put any work towards obtaining them. He is given an opportunity at the American dream from Herbert Greenleaf but will things really go his way in order for him to obtain his American dream? Highsmith’s satire of our “pathological” needs are increased by the need to consume luxury items in any way possible.

Tom Ripley does not fit into his society, therefore sub-sequentially performs small acts of theft in order to get back at the world. Tom is a lonely person with no friends or family, unlike the Greenleafs who are apart of the city’s elite. He lacks the connections that he needs in order to live the luxurious American Dream he desires. But Mr Greenleaf opens a new door of opportunity and hope for him when he offers him an all expense paid trip to Europe in order to convince his son Dickie to come back to America. In a way, Tom is getting a fresh start by buying new clothes, having new luggage, flying first class, obtaining a new life in Europe.

Highsmith sets these standards of the 1950s that in order to become someone and to live, you first need to have money. Tom Ripley can only change and be that someone by stealing, by murdering, by deceiving. This has become a existentialist dream of starting anew through the funding of Dickie’s father Mr Greenleaf. On his way to his new life, he tries to obtain the book “The Ambassadors” which he was told to read. However, this book is evidently unattainable because of the fact that he is now a first class passenger and the book is in the economy class. This shows the slow transformation he is going through and the first new life experience he has and being cut off from his old life, his old life being left behind in the lower class where he came from.

This novel explores the ways in which Tom Ripley ambitiously creates or takes over a double identity in order to achieve his American dream. “I don’t want you to think I’m someone who tried to take advantage of your father.” (55). He spoke these words when meeting Dickie and telling him the truth as part of his plan to get close to Dickie, therefore also getting close to his lifestyle. He acts as if he is really someone who is honest and only hopes for the best for everyone. But in reality, he only hopes for the best in himself. He has to become deceitful and a liar once again in order to get one step closer to his dreams and make it a reality. On his path to try and obtain his dream, he continually deceives all those around him. He constantly lies to Mr Greenleaf that he is trying his best at getting Dickie to home, while they were actually planning other things together to have fun. “Tom had to smile as he wrote it, because he and Dickie were talking of cruising around the Greek islands this winter..” (70). The liar and trickster is hidden behind this facade and his smile. He smiles because he begins to feel joy in tricking those around him to climb higher and higher and experience the luxurious life. He slowly insinuates himself into the role of someone from the other part of the social ladder. He begins to achieve his American Dream in Europe. He will stop at nothing in order to achieve his goals. This implements this murderous attitude because he starts to believe that in order to have the life Dickie has, he has to become Dickie.

We can see his dishonesty here yet it fails to get better, only worsens as the urge for the luxurious life increases. He wants to be “somebody” and this was the perfect change to obtain just that. What better way to do that then to become Dickie Greenleaf himself? Thus the murder of Dickie occurs and Tom Ripley assumes the identity of him in order to rise to the top. He develops this double identity in order to get the pay checks that Dickie has and obtain all the possessions that he has as well. “I would rather be a fake somebody than a nobody”. Tom’s dream is to become a fake somebody rather than being the nobody that he is. Tom Ripley transforms into a combination of both Tom and Dickie, taking on a completely new identity.

Dickie’s life was Tom’s version of the American Dream and he was able to obtain it through fate when Mr Greenleaf approached him, but did he really achieve it? Although he at least was able to obtain the life he wanted by murdering Dickie Greenleaf, he leads a life with a double identity now. He develops this double identity yet he is constantly changing between the two in order to further hide himself from the truth and keep on being the somebody he set out to be. Tom is taking on the persona of a second individual and saves himself from reality through the use of these. Having this double identity also helps to relieve his guilt from the crimes he has committed as Tom Ripley. He keeps telling himself that as long as this is what he wanted, it is all for the better. This shows how people will stop at nothing to obtain the life they want and live in luxury.

Tom Ripley himself is a nobody, having meager jobs here and there in New York City, but when he got close to achieving his American Dream, he believed that he needed to do everything he could in order to achieve it. That is why Tom Ripley used the identity of Dickie Greenleaf in order to mask his own “nobody” identity and achieve the American dream of becoming “somebody”. He was able to obtain Dickie’s money, his identity, and thus living his dream. He is now “the present and the future of Tom Ripley” (41).

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