Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: The Talented Mr. Ripley

From: Terrill Lankford (
Date: 03 Apr 2007

-----Original Message-----
>Sent: Apr 3, 2007 10:55 AM
>Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: The Talented Mr. Ripley
>Re your comment below:
>"Ripley may be a genius, but he is absolutely insane."
>Insanity is a legal, not a medical, concept. And by
>any legal yardstick, Ripley's not insane in the least.
>You may call him "sociopathic" or "psychopathic," but
>neither of these terms are synonyms for "insane."
>He knows exactly what he's doing, and he's perfectly
>capable of controlling his actions. He's evil, not
>mentally ill.


I agree with you. (Do I hear trumpets blaring in the distance? Is this the end of times?)

But I'm not even sure Ripley is evil. He does "evil" things, but as the series progresses it seems that many of these acts are out of mere self-preservation or the need to protect his business partners and/or loved ones from people even worse than himself. The four books that follow THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY get more and more sympathetic to Ripley's cause. If you were to read the last book by itself, having never read any of the others, you might draw the conclusion that Ripley was the "good guy" and that his snooping neighbor was the villian of the piece. You may decide that is the case even if you have read the previous four books.

Highsmith loved messing with her audience. I think one of the brilliant things about these books is that she makes part of us, as readers, want to see Ripley succeed.


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