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In The Talented Mr Ripley Character Analysis Essay

In the Talented Mr Ripley the author creates a psychopath that is not only cringe worthy but very much believable. By showing the main character who presents many of the characteristics and traits of such a person, from pathological lying to lack of empathy for others, Highsmith does well at getting the reader to root for a brutal murderer and sympathize with him even though he is undeserving. By letting the reader into Tom’s head in such a way that Highsmith basically demands the reader to show compassion to a person with no moral standards.

The reader not only feels for the psychopath but can not help but think they are out there, like Tom, hiding in plain sight. One of the attributes of a psychopath is pathological lying. It is revealed that Tom is shown to be a pathological liar through his ongoing lies. At the beginning of the book Tom is invited over to the Greenleafs. Tom starts off by lying to Mr Greenleaf by telling him that he works in accounting for an advertising agency. In reality Tom does not have a real job. He just pretends to work for the department of internal revenue in order to con innocent people.

Tom then goes on to pretend to be closer to his son Dickie than he actually is and later also lies to Dickie claiming it was one of Dickie’s friends who introduced them. Tom is so devoted to his own lies that he keeps stocks of information in his head reserved and ready to contribute to his efforts, comparable to that of a psychopath.

It gets to the point where Tom speaks so intelligently and fluently that nobody would question the validity of what he says at any given time. Such as when Tom lies while on the phone to Mr Reddington, “Tom had a lot of hash about net income versus accrued income, balance due versus computation.. e could deliver in a slow voice as incapable of interruption as a Sherman tank” (Highsmith, 19). or when he lies by telling Mr Greenleaf he went to princeton.

“Tom could have discussed the system of teaching history, the campus restrictions… anything” (Highsmith, 21). Just about everything Tom tells the Greenleafs is false. Tom is willing to lie just to entertain “Did he show you any of his frame models or his drawings? Dickie hadn’t but Tom said brightly yes”(Highsmith, 12). The only thing that happened to be true that he told is the fact that his parents died when he was young and he was raised by his Aunt Dottie in Boston.

Key events during childhood can help shape the characteristics of a person in which a psychopath is defined. Bad upbringing does not necessarily mean the child will become a psychopath however it plays very much a role no matter how insignificant it may seem. It is later revealed in the book that Tom’s Aunt was rather mean to him, telling him things like”his upbringing cost her more than his father left in insurance” and calling him names like “sissy”. This would definitely not be something anyone in the right mind would say to a child they are raising. Especially a child like Tom, who lost both his parents.

The reader can only infer this has affected how he turned out as an adult, a mere precursor to his eventual rise as a psychopath. Environmentally, the mean attitude of Aunt Dottie towards young Tom eventually shaped him to be a seemingly handsome and charming man. The reader can infer that the reason why Ripley was always out for money was because his Aunt Dottie always faulted him and his dead father for never leaving enough behind to raise him. From a biological psychology perspective, if young children are not shown loving care and affection they will be incapable of feeling or reciprocating these emotions to other people.

Cognitively, these children grow up to only fend for themselves, their thoughts do not extend to the state of mind or body that anyone else is in. Anyone in their path becoming either tools or objects for their amusement or personal gain, as shown by Tom. Today’s psychopath can be defined as violent, impulsive and uncaring. Tom is portrayed as showing these traits. Tom has these violent outbursts that ultimately results in the death of two characters. The first Dickie is barbarically bashed with an oar while on a boat. Secondly Tom beats Freddie repeatedly with an ashtray.

Just like a psychopath, he does not feel any remorse for his treacherous deeds. Tom can be described as callous with no concern for human life other than his own. Because people are mere objects to Tom, murder cannot be seen as anything wrong. While a non deviant person would naturally be hindered by repercussions of these actions, Tom benefits by his lack of empathy because it relieves him from any guilt. This will lead Tom to continually be successful in his endeavors because he will be able to remain calm and collected.

This especially helps when he is confronted by the police which he confidently talks his way through the questioning whilst forging a letter to Mrs Greenleaf. All without skipping a beat. With no cause to nervously dwell on such situations, he is able to devote more time to more concerning matters to him. Tom is shown to be a believable psychopath given the fact that he took away the life of someone who was suppose to be a close friend to him but does not feel shame as an ordinary person would. When Tom later goes on to take the life of Dickies friend, Freddie Miles, he refuses to admit the blame for it.

Instead he puts the burden on his victim and sees his barbaric actions as being caused by Freddie himself. “Freddie Miles, you’re a victim of your own dirty mind. ”(Highsmith 139). Another attribute of a psychopath is having a parasitic like lifestyle. Tom is the equivalent to that of a parasite that preys on a host. Tom plays such an insignificant role in the lives of his prey that these hosts simply do not think twice about a man like himself. From conning people as a member of the Internal Revenue Service, to Mr.

Greenleaf and his wife, to Dickie and his one sided love interest Marge, the police, and himself, into believing he is something he actually is not but could only dream to be. These phantasms of a grandiose lifestyle, eventually becoming actuality through layers of lies and heinous acts, does not phase Tom one bit. As he is only out for himself, he does not realize that he and his ways are parasitic to himself, the prior Tom only Highsmith imagined a true protagonist to be now riddled with evil. His actions and words are terrible in a way that Tom loses a sense of himself-if he ever had one to begin with.

Criminal versatility a known trait of a psychopath, is defined under Tom’s petty crimes. He takes great pride in getting away with a simple ongoing tax scheme. More of a “game” to Tom, receiving checks out of the “sport” of a “practical joke” on his prey’s behalf, he saw no harm in what he had done. With no “idiot” having paid in cash, throughout his on the spot lies while supposedly working for the Internal Revenue Service, makes his own self seem like an idiot to the reader for not being able to completely con these people when this is his profession.

Highsmith’s portrayal of Ripley’s character is convincing to the point where she has the reader rooting for the bad guy. Wanting to see Tom to lie, to steal, to become this psychopathic figure in full motion. The basic nature of Tom has no redeeming qualities, the inner dialogue in Ripley’s head makes the reader inadvertently become this evil being. After serving their purpose to Tom, they are disposed in the reader’s mind and hands clean at the turn of a page wanting more.

After all the effort the main character has gone through to et to the point where he is at the end, the reader is left feeling as though he was deserving of the lavish lifestyle he inherited, the lives of man and anguish of families merely another check inside the pocket of his jacket hung in the closet. Throughout the story there are questionable things Tom does that appears to be somewhat psychopathic in nature. One notable scene is when Tom dresses up in Dickie’s clothes and puts on a play in front of the mirror. Tom acting as Dickie, pretends to strangle Marge. “Tom turned suddenly and made a grab in the air as if he were seizing Marge’s throat”(Highsmith, 75).

Dickie soon after walks in and catches Tom wearing his suit and quickly becomes enraged. It is almost a foreshadowing that is looked back upon on after he commits the murders. Even when Tom is constantly checking the newspaper for anything relating to his crimes. As Tom takes on Dickies identity he is somewhat delighted to find out that the police think Dickie murdered Tom. Only a psychopath would be able to find excitement over that. Once again he treats this as a game as he goes back to being Tom to confuse the police even more.

It is then made apparent how much Tom hated himself. “He hated becoming Thomas Ripley again, hated being nobody…”(Highsmith, 179). The reader gains a thought that justice will inevitably ensue and the masquerade eventually ends. This fortunately is not the case. The reader can not help but feel slightly tricked even though they are left satisfied in a twisted way. In the end of the book Tom unexpectedly gets away with murder and is rewarded by inheriting his victims fortune. Tom had successfully fooled the police and Marge as well as tricking the Greenleaf family.

He has also given close friends of his false hope into believing Dickie may still be alive. Tom is so hideous the label psychopath would be an understatement of what kind of person he really is. The reader has become so enthralled with Tom and his success by now that the obvious ultimate injustice, rewarding a murderer instead of condemning him, slips right by. It is at this moment that Tom is not only undoubtedly considered a believable psychopath, but a likeable one as well. Psychopaths are generally described as selfish people who use manipulation and violence to control others.

They feel no guilt from any wrongdoings and usually never take responsibility for their actions. Tom epitomizes these traits as he travels all over Europe on someone else’s dime through manipulation tactics. Committing violent and wickedly amoral crimes without a care, while of course deliberately refusing to accept any responsibility. The main character that the reader is forced to identify with is evil and cold hearted which is something the reader may find unwilling to admit. However the author paints a convincing portrayal of a young male psychopath and his name is Tom Ripley.

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