The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film) Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film) Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Jacket

The Princeton jacket is a vital symbol that drives the plot of the film. At the very beginning of the film, Tom's voice over indicates the importance of this jacket, as he states "If I could just go back. If I could rub everything out. starting with myself. starting with borrowing a jacket." To the Greenleaf family, the jacket represents wealth, class and high status. It is because of this jacket and its connotations of success and privilege that they approach Tom in the first place. In this way, the jacket symbolizes the attitudes of the elite and the life of the wealthy.

Jazz Music

Jazz music is a significant motif throughout the film. It represents Tom's ascent from low-brow to high-brow culture, as it is associated with the upper class. Before Tom goes to Italy, he obsesively studies jazz music in order to fit in. Over time he perfectly memorises all the songs, a moment which marks a transition in his character, as he is now able to meet Dickie in Italy. Jazz music is also essential in scenes where Dickie and Tom forge a close relationship, as they bond over various jazz musical festivals and constantly play jazz music in Dickie's mansion. Tom studies and learns jazz music solely for the purpose of becoming close to Dickie and earning his trust and admiration, as he claims "Of course, Dickie's idea of music is Jazz. To my ear Jazz is just noise, just an insolent noise."


Water is an ominous motif in the film, as it represents claustrophobia, frustration and violence. In the movie, water is associated with drowning and death. This can be seen when the young pregnant woman drowns herself, as well as when Tom kills Dickie during a yacht ride. The film usurps the positive connotations of water as healing and relaxing to deliberately emphasise Tom's tortured mental state. Water also represents transition, a key theme of the film as Tom adopts the persona of Dickie Greenleaf.

The Dark Basement

The film uses the image of a dark basement to symbolize Tom's troubled mindset and his regrets towards his violent outbursts. This can be seen in the rhetorical question "Don't you just take the past and put it in a room, in the basement, then lock the door and never go in there?" This is coupled with numerous shots of dark rooms in hotels, creating a strong sense of claustrophobia and entrapment. The dark basement motif provides great insight into the extent to which Tom suffers from depression and violent thoughts.

Dickie's clothes

Dickie's clothes represent his identity, as well as his life of privilege and luxury. When Tom wears Dickie's clothes, it appears at first that he imagines himself in Dickie's position of power and wealth. However, as the film progresses, we discover that this symbolic act has darker undertones. By wearing Dickie's clothes, Tom encourages himself to become Dickie entirely, prompting him to kill Dickie and adopt his persona.

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