Through the eyes of a sociopath
It is interesting how foreboding a title can truly be and how it really can make all the difference. In The Talented Mr. Ripley written by Patricia Highsmith, we are given a new take on the mystery genre and a new way for a narrator to mess with our minds. In the novel, our main character, Tom Ripley, suffers from readily apparent mental issues that plague his every thought. Unfortunately for those around him, he never seeks help for them and instead harms these individuals physically and emotionally. This book assists in bringing forth the question of how important and decietful titles can be.
During a class discussion, it was brought to question whether this book would read differently if Ripley had been labelled with an actual mental issue. After exploring this aspect deeply, it was decided that the story would have taken a totally different path. For those around Tom, if they were aware of the wickedness swirling inside of him, it is obvious a disconnect between them would be discernible. The way Highsmith instead masks his issues is what causes Tom’s destructive actions to be so shocking. As a reader it also would dictate how the story itself would unravel. Beginning this tale with an actual mental issue, readers are already emotionally distant because they are most likely unable to relate with the problems that he has. Instead, as you feel the anger and confusion that Tom experiences you sympathize with him instead. Knowing an individual has mental instabilities, readers are already preparing for those issues to be shown and explored in destructive ways. Instead, Patricia managers to surprise and connect her characters with the reader so they can explore the full extent of these mental issues.
Another factor to this argument is his actual title and how he is constantly trying to hide it. He is Tom Ripley although, the moment he is forced to become himself again he is visibly disappointed. Seeing as Tom was so easily able to take on a new life, we wonder whether he even had roots stuck inside of his own title. His disconnect from his own name is another issue that this novel explores. Instead of taking pride in his name and working hard for his reputation, he takes on parasitic relationships. He consistently wants a new start and uses other peoples hard work to fulfill himself. Even the title of the novel plays into this aspect. We are welcomed with this belief that he is incredible and reputable, instead we are deceived by this and lead on a roller coaster of emotions that ultimately reveal Tom as nothing be deplorable. It is apparent that his title of “Tom” means nothing to him and is truly nothing more than a character he takes on.
All in all, Highsmith manages to keep readers on their toes and unable to pinpoint exactly who this talented Mr. Ripley truly is. Instead of the satisfaction from Tom finally coming to terms with his actions, we are left to question if he will ever be open and honest with anybody, including himself. Patricia manages to lead readers on a winding road of emotion and force us tp ponder our own identity. Her ability to go into a killers shoes and portray his story as a completely sane person shows her level of complexity and hard work. The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological analysis that leaves readers looking within themselves and at those around them to see what titles may be hiding right under their noses.