The Talented Mr. Ripley

by Patricia Highsmith

Start Free Trial

How does the time period affect the way The Talented Mr. Ripley was written?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Patricia Highsmith wrote The Talented Mr. Ripleyin 1955. Highsmith is not exactly a postmodernist, nor could she be classified as a contemporary author. This mid-century novel joined others in offering groundbreaking techniques in terms of character development and exploration of moral themes that transcend literary movements.

Tom Ripley is...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

a psychopathic killer, and yet Highsmith is able to develop his character in a way that arouses readers' sympathy for him. There are hints that he is a closeted homosexual, as he is accused of being a "sissy" raised by an unloving aunt after he is orphaned. He is clearly attracted to Dickie Greenleaf, but unable to express it directly. By emulating Dickie, killing him, and for a time, assuming his identity, Ripley is able to, in a sense, sublimate his feelings. It could be argued that in a society that did not accept homosexuality, a charming, heterosexual killer would be in some ways more acceptable than a gay man, as Highsmith seems to suggest.

The fact that Tom Ripley leaves America for Europe suggests that in the postwar United States, a man could not truly discover his own nature and identity outside of the way the Puritan past informs the American male identity, with notions of hard work, thrift, and fatherhood. Tom Ripley is too urbane and cosmopolitan for the social and gender expectations of mid-century America.

Approved by eNotes Editorial