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Literature / Ripliad

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A series of novels written by Patricia Highsmith that chronicle the life of the title character Ripley, 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 Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Ripley Under Ground
  • Ripley's Game
  • The Boy Who Followed Ripley
  • Ripley Under Water

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:

  • Affably Evil: Ripley may be a liar, conman, and murderer, but he really is polite and charming and he only hurts people (by killing or manipulation) if he absolutely has to or if they pose a threat to him.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Many readers suspect that Ripley may have closeted homosexual tendencies — there are homoerotic overtones in his relationships with, in particular, Dickie in The Talented Mr. Ripley and Frank Pierson in The Boy Who Followed Ripley, and his relationship in the later books with his wife Heloise is notably lacking in sexual passion.
  • 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.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Ripley's MO in the first two novels.
  • 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. Ripley Under Water has this as a major part of its Evil Versus Evil plot, where Ripley's peaceful life is threatened by a nasty Inspector Javert who is a wife-beater and ugly American who while ironically on the side of good (he tries to expose Ripley's murders), is mostly interested in the sadistic pleasure in hurting others.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Marge is a sententious homophobe, but she correctly intuits that there's something less than platonic about Tom's fixation with Dickie.
  • 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.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Tom. While generally amicable, he's a master at getting people to do what he wants. In the film in particular, the scene 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.
  • Never Suicide: 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.
  • The Nondescript: Tom has a 'bland face', which comes in handy when he impersonates someone.
  • Pretty in Mink: In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Marge wears a fur coat and hat.
  • invokedReclusive Artist: In Ripley Underground, the painter Phillip Derwatt has been living off the grid for years. Some time into his isolation, he commits suicide. His friends cover up his suicide, initially just to protect his reputation, but later so they can keep selling new paintings supposedly painted by Phillip.
  • 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.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The second, third, and fourth books all devote a significant amount of page time to Ripley trying to save an acquaintance from either committing suicide or being murdered. He fails all three times.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Bernard in the film adaptation of Ripley Under Ground.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Dickie's cousin Chris, a guest of Ripley's in the second book, strongly resembles his late cousin. Given how Ripley killed Dickie, this causes him some anxiety.
  • 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.
  • 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."

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