Literature / Ripliad

Patricia Highsmith wrote this series of novels about Tom Ripley. The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley's Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water are a chronicle of a charming and utterly sociopathic man. All evidence much black humor, and are notable as inverted mysteries in which Ripley always gets away with his crimes in the end.

The labels Affably Evil, Sociopathic Hero and Villain Protagonist describe Ripley well, and every novel after the first invokes Villains Out Shopping by depicting Ripley's affluent life in the French countryside, beloved by his servants and engaging in artistic pursuits. Ripley is also somewhat Ambiguously Gay (or rather, explicitly states he just doesn't know what he is), although it could be argued that, like Dexter, he is simply a rather warped Chaste Hero, having difficulty forming any kind of relationship given his psychological problems.

Film adaptations:

Other tropes used in the series:

  • Alter-Ego Acting: In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom is able to both convincingly take Dickie Greenleaf's identity, and portray an exaggerated version of him before the same police officers who saw him as Dickie and get away with it.
  • Consummate Liar: Tom
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Inverted in the first film. After injuring himself when he falls off his bike, Tom tells Marge that Dickie hit him in order to lend credence to his cause.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Played with in Ripley Under Ground, in that it features Ripley as part of a scam to produce further works of an artist unsuccessful in life who killed himself at a young age, and Ripley ends up masquerading as the artist.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Ripley is a version of this from the second book onward, as he has a lot of suspicion attached to himself but no one has ever been able to pin any crimes on him.
  • Dumb Blonde: Ripley seems to think Marge is a dumb blonde in the first book. She's the first one to suspect that Tom isn't quite what he seems in Mongibello, but she fails to connect the dots in the second half of the book, and in fact becomes much friendlier towards him by the end.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: In the first book, Ripley has to become Tom again in part because the authorities suspect that Dickie murdered Tom.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Ripley tries to avoid killing people unless absolutely necessary, first trying to get them to cooperate with his schemes. The only people he ever kills without any guilt are some gangsters in Ripley's Game.
  • Freudian Excuse: Ripley was an orphan brought up by his emotionally abusive aunt.
  • Funetik Aksent: Used for all of the French characters who call Ripley "Tome".
  • Good with Numbers: Even when drunk Tom can tell if he's being cheated.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: How Muchison buys the farm.
  • If I Can't Have You...: Part of Ripley's motive for murdering Dickie.
  • Inspector Javert: Ripley is often dogged by someone on to his crimes, but if they're police he ultimately escapes them, and if not, likely kills them.
  • Karma Houdini: Except for the film 'Purple Noon', where he just barely misses pulling one of these off.
  • Little Black Dress: In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Marge wears a black dress and stole to a party.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Tom lays a careful series of letters and clues that hint at the possibility Dickie committed suicide. In the film, he outright forges a suicide note from Dickie to provide everyone with an explanation for his disappearance.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Tom. While generally amicable, he's a master at getting people to do what he wants.
    • In the film in particular, the sequence where he engineers a meeting between Marge and Meredith so that they can realize that Dickie is a jerk who's been stringing them both along and thus make Marge give up on trying to find out what's happened to him. In truth, he's been posing as Dickie while courting Meredith.
  • Master Actor: Tom can play Dickie, Derwatt, etc.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Tom uses this to keep up the illusion that Dickie is alive and that his disappearance is the result of him willfully abandoning Marge.
  • Never Found the Body: Along with Dickie's devil-may-care attitude towards life, this is the main reason Tom is able to get away with his crime, as everyone, even the intelligent and experienced private detective assumes that Dickie has simply abandoned everything and everyone from his past.
  • Nervous Wreck: Bernard.
  • The Nondescript: Tom has a 'bland face.'
  • Pretty in Mink: In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Marge wears a fur coat and hat.
  • Reclusive Artist: Derwatt In-Universe
  • Red Right Hand: One of Ripley's criminal contacts is a gangster, Reeves Minot, whose handsome features are marred by a nasty scar on his face, which he attempts to explain away with various unconvincing stories.
  • Scenery Porn: Italy, obviously.
  • Supporting Protagonist: In Ripley's game, Ripley becomes this to the actual main character, Jonathan Trevanny.
  • Unreliable Narrator: While the books are narrated in third-person, everything is essentially from Ripley's perspective as he has the Sympathetic P.O.V., and thus his reasoning for his various crimes are presented as legitimate.
  • Weapon of Choice: Ripley is rather fond of hitting people with things.
  • Wicked Cultured: Tom.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Ripley. Despite all the horrible things he's done, there's something incredibly pitiful about him.
    • An excellent example of this occurs in the first book. He gets so violently ill he can't stand or leave his hotel room, but still crawls around on the floor following sun beams, hoping that they'll tan him so he fits in better.
      • This line the movie:
    Tom: "I always thought it would be be a fake somebody...than a real nobody."
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Tom's freedom is testament to his mastery of the game.

    Tropes exclusive to the 1999 film 
  • Adaptational Villainy: Dickie proves to be a complete cad. In the book, he merely comes across as a bit shallow and selfish, but not really a bad guy.
  • Ascended Extra: Peter Smith-Kingsley has only a very minor presence in the book, although Tom does consider that they might have become closer had circumstances been different. Freddie Miles' role is also considerably expanded.
  • Asshole Victim: Freddie. He's (correctly) suspicious of Tom from the moment they meet, but he acts like such a jerk, it's hard to feel sorry for him when Tom bashes his head in. Very tellingly, this is the one murder he displays no remorse for.
    • Dickie also. He cheats on Marge, then refuses to help the other girl when she gets pregnant. When she kills herself, he's crushed and horrified, but his chief concern is still how this will affect him. And the things he says to Tom just before the latter kills him are accurate, but delivered quite cruelly, and Tom's murder of him is a direct result of Dickie going berserk and relentlessly assaulting him. Later, the private detective sent to investigate Dickie's disappearance uncovers even more sordid details from his past.
  • Cassandra Truth: Marge flat-out says to Tom, "I know you killed Dickie". Unfortunately, as she's rather screaming it and flailing her arms at him, she's dismissed as a hysterical woman.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Tom unwraps a large bust that he bought. He soon uses it to bash Freddie's head in.
  • Costume Porn: Everyone is clad in lovely 1950's style clothing.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Tom in regards to Dickie. His reaction when Freddie arrives and monopolizes Dickie's time, as well as his reaction to Dickie and Marge's lovemaking is like that of a spurned lover.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Tom, in spades. In the scene where he spies on Dickie and Marge as they make love, it's hard to tell which one of them he's jealous of.
  • Downer Ending: Tom gets away with the crimes he's committed throughout the film, but it ends with him killing his lover Peter—probably the first and only person to return his affections as well as love and accept him as he is—because it's the only way he can avoid being found out for impersonating Dickie.
  • Driven to Suicide: Dickie's lover, who he abandons after she gets pregnant. Faced with the possibility of being an unwed mother in 1950's Italy, she kills herself to avoid the inevitable shame. Towards the end of the film, Tom forges a note to make it seem as though Dickie himself is this.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Meredith isn't dumb, but she's clearly clueless about the extent that she's being used and deceived by Tom.
  • Female Gaze: The film has both Matt Damon and Jude Law completely naked.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the movie's title "The [adjective] Mr Ripley", about a dozen words (sensitive, mysterious, tender, etc) take turn filling the adjective slot, before "Talented" is fixed.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Freddie is a rude, crude jerk, but he's correctly suspicious of Tom the moment he meets him and calls him out on his freeloading and his perversity. Dickie as well, a self-centered cad who cheats on his girlfriend, then ditches the other woman when she gets pregnant, but quite accurately sums up Tom's leeching, social-climbing ways. Unfortunately, it gets them both killed for their troubles.
  • Just in Time: Peter's arrival at Tom's apartment in all likelihood saved Marge's life (she'd found Dickie's rings among Tom's things and realized what he'd done). About the only other reason she wasn't dead yet is that Tom couldn't find a suitable weapon.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Tom gets away with multiple murders as well as tricking Mr. Greenleaf into giving him Dickie's trust fund, but in the end he is forced to kill his lover to prevent his secret from getting out and will presumably spend the rest of his life in fear of getting caught.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Jude Law clearly loses his American accent in a scene where he admonishes Tom for cleaning up after him (a typical "highly emotional" scene where even the best actors can have trouble maintaining an unnatural accent).
  • The Peeping Tom: Literally, in a scene where he eyes Dickie and Marge as they make love. The creepiness is ratcheted up by the fact that you genuinely can't tell which one of them he's more jealous of.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "No. I did not kill Freddie Miles and then kill Dickie Greenleaf." It's the other way around
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Aside from lying that Dickie hit him in order to retain Marge's sympathy, Tom pretends that his feelings are hurt by Marge's suspicions in order to gain similar sympathy from Peter.

Alternative Title(s): The Talented Mr Ripley, The Talented Mister Ripley, Ripleys Game, Ripley Under Ground