Is Tom Ripley genuinely interested in other people, or does he just use them?

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In The Talented Mr. Ripley, a novel by Patricia Highsmith , Tom Ripley seem to spend his life taking advantage of other people in order to further his own personal, and particularly financial, gain. It would therefore be very easy to assume that Tom Ripley does not care about...

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In The Talented Mr. Ripley, a novel by Patricia Highsmith, Tom Ripley seem to spend his life taking advantage of other people in order to further his own personal, and particularly financial, gain. It would therefore be very easy to assume that Tom Ripley does not care about other people at all and that he is simply using anyone who crosses his path.

However, when looking at the novel more closely, one could argue that this is not the case when it comes to the relationship between Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf. Tom meets Dickie on purpose; they do not just casually bump into each other, as Tom had been tasked by Dickie’s father to try and persuade his son to return to America. However, in the process of this venture, Tom begins to develop a genuine interest in Dickie as a person, so Dickie and Tom become friends. They travel around Italy together and become closer than would be necessary if Tom merely wanted to take advantage of Dickie’s situation. In order to do the job he had been tasked, this level of closeness would not have been needed. It prompts Marge, Dickie’s girlfriend, to become jealous. She even wonders if their might be a sexual connection between Tom and Dickie.

This clearly shows that whilst Tom usually tends to use people for his own benefit, in the case of Dickie, he is able to develop a genuine feeling of friendship. In fact, it is this strong feeling of friendship, bordering on obsession, which later on leads to Dickie’s murder, as Tom can’t bear the fact that Dickie is losing interest in him.

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