The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film)

The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film) Irony

Tom's Relationship to Wealth (Situational Irony and Dramatic Irony)

At the start of the film, Tom voices his annoyance at Dickie's exuberant lifestyle, in particular, the fact that he lives a life of luxury without having to work for it. At first Tom's dislike of Dickie's inherited wealth appears justified, as Tom has to work extremely hard in degrading occupations in order to get by, whereas Dickie uses his family's money to travel the world and live a life of leisure.

However, as the film progresses, Tom's opinion reveals itself to be hypocritical, as he enjoys the benefits of the Greenleafs' wealth more and more. Tom becomes very happy to use and waste Dickie's family money, the very same attitude for which he reprimands Dickie.

In a moment of dramatic irony, Meredith Logue confides in Dickie about not trusting people who are not as wealthy as her. Because she believes Tom to be Dickie Greenleaf, Meredith does not realize that she is actually confiding in someone of a lower status about how she finds people of a lower status to be untrustworthy. Complicating matters further is Tom's assumption of Dickie's identity and belief in his own belonging in the wealthy circles he inhabits.

Tom's relationship to wealth alludes to the ways that wealth corrupts, as well as highlighting the social class division in 1950s America.

The Investigation of the Murders (Dramatic Irony)

The plot of The Talented Mr. Ripley is structured around dramatic irony, a literary device in which the viewer is aware of events and actions of which the film's characters are unaware. From the beginning, when Tom convinces Mr. Greenleaf that he knows Dickie, to his “accidental” run in and subsequent friendship with Dickie and Marge, to his murder of Dickie and assumption of his identity, the drama of the plot turns on whether the other characters will find out what we, as viewers, already know. This dramatic irony is the lens through which we understand the narrative, and it shapes our perception of every character. With Tom, we are aware from the start of his deep character flaws, which the other characters don’t see, and yet we’re also more sympathetic, because we understand the precarious position he’s in, and the lengths he has to go simply to be accepted by the wealthy people that surround him. With the other characters, we are made more sympathetic to them because we see how they’re being deceived, and yet the ease with which Tom is able to deceive them also exposes some unsavory aspects of many of them, such as Dickie’s need for attention and Freddie and Meredith’s snobbery.

Marge's Mistrust of Tom (Dramatic Irony)

From the very start of the film, Marge has great trust and confidence in Tom and develops a close friendship with him. When he first comes to stay with them, she is his greatest champion. However, after Dickie's murder is revealed, Marge grows more and more suspicious of Tom. The dramatic irony occurs when no one believes her intuition that Tom has done something wrong, in spite of the audience knowing she is correct in her intuitions. While countless other characters overlook or refuse to incriminate Tom, Marge has an enduring suspicion that Tom is somehow to blame, but it is dismissed time and time again as the irrationality of a woman's intuition.

Tom as anti-hero (Situational irony)

The characterization of Tom Ripley usurps the idea of a noble, heroic protagonist. Unlike typical protagonists, Tom has a warped moral compass and is oblivious to his numerous faults. His unsavory characteristics are ironic and give the film its unique appeal, because while we expect a certain moral fortitude of our protagonists, Tom's particular brand of moral logic diverges starkly from our expectation.

This irony extends to the fact that while viewers often expect to know a protagonist intimately, very little about Tom Ripley is known to us. Even though we are so aligned with him and his journey through the conflict of the movie, we barely get to know the "real" Tom Ripley. His skills in forgery and impersonation render him hollow, a blank slate for the numerous roles he plays. It is this unexpected portrayal of a remorseless and guilt-driven titular character that strongly contributes to the film's appeal.