Tom Ripley
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tom Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley

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About Him

Grew Up… in a lower-middle-class family in New York. Tom’s had to have his wits about him from a young age, always looking for an angle. He dreamt of the day he might have an easier life.

Living… in a tiny, rundown New York City in the 1950’s. It isn’t the life of luxury, but it’ll do until he can change his fortunes.

Visiting… Italy, where he has been sent, first-class, on the dime of the shipping magnate, Herbert Greenleaf.

Profession... struggling to make a living working odd jobs, usually involving a low-stakes con of some kind. When Tom meets Greenleaf, he lies about knowing Greenleaf’s son, Dickie, from Princeton, and gains the man’s confidence. Greenleaf tasks Tom with perhaps the oddest job yet: travelling to Italy to convince Dickie to return home.

Interests… the finer things – jazz, sailing, sculpture. With Greenleaf money now in his life, Tom can afford more expensive tastes. 

Relationship Status… single, but fascinated by Dickie. It’s not a relationship so much as an obsession, though it starts out as a genuine mutual friendship. But when Dickie begins to focus his attention on his girlfriend, Marge, it causes an irreparable rift between he and Tom.

Challenge… being accepted. Tom is willing to do anything to gain acceptance and attention from those he admires. His innate talent for impersonation often helps him along in this pursuit. But now he must keep up the façade he’s erected to appeal to Dickie and his friends. A deceiver by nature, Tom seems drawn to the appearance he’s created of himself as a wealthy young man of leisure. Maintaining that image, however, won’t be easy. Then again, he doesn’t feel he has an alternative: “I always thought it would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.”

Personality… resourceful, sensitive, and guarded. Tom can’t afford to show anyone his true self, because he is always lying about something, and sometimes he ends up backed into a corner because of it. Still, he is easily wounded, often leading him to lash out in brutal ways. He’s eager to bury the person he once was: “Don't you just take the past, and put it in a room in the basement, and lock the door and never go in there? That's what I do.” But if and when people find out Tom is an imposter, you don’t want to be near the inevitable explosion.

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