The final chapter of the movie begins with Marge arriving in Venice. Peter and Tom greet her, and Marge seems suspicious and dismissive of Tom. Expressing disbelief that Dickie committed suicide, Marge informs Peter and Tom that Mr. Greenleaf has employed an American private detective named Mr. McCarron, which Tom agrees is a “terrific idea.” Marge gets into a water taxi while telling the men that Dickie cashed checks for $1000 the day before he disappeared, a behavior which she thinks disproves his alleged suicide. Arriving at Tom’s giant apartment, Marge is surprised to learn that Tom is paying for it, but he insists that he can afford it, because it is old and falling down. Marge mentions to Tom that she will have to “tell Mr. Greenleaf how far his dollar stretched,” and laughs to herself about how far Tom has ascended the class ladder since his arrival in Mongibello.
Tom and Marge go to meet Mr. Greenleaf in Piazza San Marco. A saxophonist plays in the palazzo, and Mr. Greenleaf watches frowning, presumably remembering his missing son’s fondness for jazz. Mr. Greenleaf greets Tom, noting his improved clothes and appearance, and they all sit down to discuss matters, Mr. Greenleaf informs them that the private detective is investigating in San Remo. When Tom asks why San Remo, Greenleaf tells him that he is being thorough, so that he can learn more about his son. In light of this, Greenleaf wants to ask Tom some questions about Dickie, to which Tom agrees, as Marge looks at Tom suspiciously, taking long drags of her cigarette. Greenleaf brings up the suicide note, and Marge again says that she does not believe he committed suicide, but Greenleaf suggests she just does not want to believe; clearly he was more convinced by the suicide note. Much to Marge’s dismay, Greenleaf tells Marge he wants to talk to Tom alone that afternoon, confessing that there are certain things a man tells another man that he does not tell his sweetheart, before angrily complaining about the saxophonist nearby.
Later that afternoon, Tom meets with Mr. Greenleaf privately. Greenleaf is distraught by the suicide note and the fact that Dickie appears to have smudged out his own passport identification photo. With an air of false remorse, Tom expresses guilt at having pushed Dickie away by pushing him too hard to return to the United States. Greenleaf becomes upset, suggesting that Dickie was irresponsible and unable to take any criticism or confrontation. As Greenleaf tells Tom that in any moment of confrontation with Dickie, Dickie lashes out, the sound of a seagull can be heard, recalling the moment when Dickie lashed out at Tom in the boat for calling him out on his irresponsible behavior. The scene ends with Greenleaf confiding, “People always say you can’t choose your parents, but you can’t choose your children."
In the following scene, Tom tosses and turns in his sleep while the sounds of his struggle with Dickie in the motorboat play and the camera spins around in circles, mirroring the chaos of Tom’s state of mind. Awoken abruptly from his nightmare by a knock on the door, Tom answers to find Marge and Peter arriving home. Tom apologizes for having fallen asleep without meaning to, and Tom fixes them some drinks while Marge slips away to fix a broken strap. Peter offers to stick around and spend time with Tom later, insinuating a romantic interest, which piques Tom’s interest. Tom hands him a key, an allusion to the metaphorical key the two men were speaking about earlier.
Tom is interrupted in the bath by Marge knocking and insisting she needs to speak to him. When he opens the door to the bathroom, Marge is holding Dickie’s rings which she found in Tom’s boudoir. While Tom insists he can explain, Marge becomes upset, saying that Dickie told her he would never remove the ring and that she has to go and tell Mr. Greenleaf immediately. When Marge gets more and more upset, Tom snaps at her, simultaneously losing his temper and dropping his towel. Marge looks at him fearfully, and he explains he is upset because he is wet and wants to put some clothes on, and he tells her to pour them each a drink while he gets dressed. Tom slams shut the mirror and confronts his reflection, before rifling frantically through his belongings, knocking over a candle and finally holding up a razor up to his reflection in the mirror.
As Marge collects her jacket and belongings, Tom intercepts her in the living room. He asks her why she is leaving, and she tells him she was not snooping, but rather looking for a needle and thread. Trying to justify his possession of the rings, Tom tells Marge that he bought the scent for her, not Dickie as she had previously believed, and lambasts Dickie’s ethics with women, citing his numerous affairs. Marge looks frightened and backs towards the door, as the camera zooms in on Tom’s hand in his pocket, holding the razor. Anxious music crescendos to signify Tom’s imminent murder of Marge. As Tom tells Marge he’s starting to believe that Dickie might have killed Freddie, she notices blood collecting in his pocket. In a last ditch effort to convince Marge, Tom confesses that he loved her all along, but Marge continues to question why he has Dickie’s rings. Tom insists that Dickie gave the rings to him, but Marge refuses to believe him, backed up against the door, shivering and sobbing. Just as Tom is inching towards her, menacingly asking if he can hold her, Peter bursts in using the key Tom gave him and Marge screams and hugs him. Noticing the blood on Tom’s hand from the razor, Peter asks him what’s wrong, but Tom walks away insisting that Marge is being irrational. As Peter mends Tom’s hand wound in bed in the following scene, he tells Tom that he cannot be upset with Marge. In the absence of someone to blame—Peter insists—she blames Tom.
Tom arrives at Mr. Greenleaf’s residence in Venice. He is greeted at the door by the private investigator, McCarron, and catches the tail end of a conversation between Marge and Mr. Greenleaf, in which Marge is telling Greenleaf she does not trust Tom. When Greenleaf brings up the rings, Tom apologizes for not having brought them up earlier, stating he forgot about them completely. Greenleaf insinuates that Tom’s possession of the rings is potential evidence for his guilt and takes Marge for a walk so Tom can talk to McCarron alone. On the balcony, Tom tries to talk to McCarron, but the detective cuts to the chase, abruptly telling Tom that Dickie half-killed a boy at Princeton, kicking a schoolmate in the head and landing him in the hospital with long-term effects, and McCarron reveals that the whole pretense for Dickie’s move abroad was his violent past. He also reveals that he knows that Tom Ripley was not actually a student at Princeton, but only a piano tuner for the music department, as well as his knowledge of the suicide of Silvana. Having dredged up too much controversy in Dickie’s past, McCarron and Greenleaf intend to drop the case. In exchange for Tom’s silence, McCarron says, Greenleaf has arranged to transfer a large portion of Dickie’s trust to Tom. Tom leaves without consequence, protected by a powerful family, and with the promise of continued wealth. Tom says goodbye to Mr. Greenleaf and Marge. Tom apologizes to Marge about the other night, but she remains cold before exploding in a rage, hitting him and yelling that she knows it was him who killed Dickie. McCarron grabs ahold of her and pulls her into the boat.
The scene shifts to Tom and Peter on a boat sharing a romantic voyage to Athens together. After Peter goes down below, Tom watches the sunset over the water before being interrupted by the calls of Meredith Logue, who still believes him to be Dickie. Confused by his humble clothes, Meredith bemoans having to travel with her aunt and uncle, and confesses to him that she has thought about him a lot since they parted, asking him where he has been hiding, and Tom tells her he has been in police custody and is now keeping a low profile. Meredith tells Tom, who is now once again fully inhabiting the character of Dickie, that everyone thinks he killed Freddie Miles, to which Tom responds that he cannot talk now, and kisses Meredith trying to leave. Meredith stops Tom in his tracks, however, when she asks him if he is traveling with Peter Smith-Kingsley, whom her aunt thinks she saw. Tom denies it and tells Meredith he is traveling alone.
Tom goes to his cabin to talk with Peter, wanting to urge them to stay in the cabin for the rest of the trip, fearing a run-in with Meredith that will reveal his charade. Upon Tom’s arrival, however, Peter asks if it was Meredith that he saw Tom kissing on the deck. Denying the exchange, Tom tells Peter that he lied about their traveling together for fear of gossip, but slips up and refers to himself as “Dickie.” Confused, Peter questions Tom, who realizes how damned he is by his own actions, seemingly laughing and crying at the same time, and telling Peter that he has lied about who he is, and saying that he always thought “It’d be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.” Peter compassionately insists that Tom is not a “nobody,” and Tom asks Peter to tell him “some nice things about Tom Ripley.” As Peter begins to list Tom’s qualities, many of which include Tom’s mysteriousness and secrecy, Tom leans on his back, holding a tie with which to strangle Peter at the ready. Peter’s list shifts to voiceover and we hear Tom tearfully strangling Peter, as the camera shows Tom in the cabin alone, sitting on his bed in an almost catatonic state.
Skepticism about Tom’s story continues to follow him in this section of the movie, primarily on the grounds of his rapid accumulation of wealth. Marge is more skeptical of Tom than ever at the start of this chapter, mockingly outlining how far he has stretched Mr. Greenleaf’s salary, and noting how elevated Tom’s lifestyle has become since arriving in Italy. She is not so easily deflected by Tom’s ample excuses, and eyes him with a curiosity that belies suspicion, up through the climactic moment in which she discovers Dickie’s rings in his possession. As the person closest to Dickie, Marge doggedly searches for an explanation for why Dickie suddenly abandoned her, and as a result, is not so easily swayed by Tom’s stories. Not only is Marge skeptical of the inconsistencies in the mystery, however, but she is all the more bolstered in her suspicion by the fact that Tom is an impostor in the upper echelons of society he now inhabits. The distrust of people from less wealthy backgrounds that Meredith confides in Tom earlier is also articulated in Marge’s distrust of Tom in the wake of Dickie’s disappearance.
However, as skeptical as Marge is, Tom remains protected by a number of powerful men who believe his story. Peter is both receptive to his story and attracted to him, and Mr. Greenleaf, rather than resent Tom for not being able to bring Dickie back to the United States, identifies with Tom’s impossible job of confronting Dickie for his irresponsible behavior. What Greenleaf does not know is that that very moment of confrontation between Dickie and Tom is the moment when Tom murdered Dickie. In the moments when it seems like Tom is on the brink of being discovered, someone believes him and takes care of him. When Marge becomes hysterical on the brink of Tom’s attempting to murder her, Peter still trusts Tom’s word, rationalizing that Marge only blames Tom because she needs someone to blame. The irony is that Marge, in her perceived hysteria, is the closest to knowing the truth of any of them. When questioned about her suspicions, Marge cannot provide any evidence, but insists that she just knows that Tom is a villain. To this, Mr. Greenleaf responds, “there is female intuition and then there are facts.” In this moment, the movie shows that the word of a man and the power of evidence has more consequence than the intuitions and suspicions of a woman, even if, as in this case, the woman is correct.
Tom’s ultimate release from legal jeopardy is the result of his consistent luck, and also a result of the misdeeds of Dickie and their consequences. Because Dickie had such a tarnished criminal record, the Greenleaf family is willing to forgo further investigations in order to avoid any scandals. Dickie was a violent man with a troubled past, and the viewer is surprised to hear that he nearly killed someone in college. Not only do Dickie and Tom share a shocking carelessness, they also apparently share a violent temper. Complicating matters further is the fact that when Tom killed Dickie, it was in response to Dickie flying off the handle for being called out on his past misdeeds. In the motorboat, when Tom presses Dickie about his mistreatment of Silvana and Marge, the audience sees Dickie as violent. This violence begets further violence on Tom’s end, and thus a trail of guilt and violence follow these two men.
While Tom gets out of the mess he created alive, his conscience does not go unscathed, as shown when he must kill the one person he loves the most, Peter. The viewer expects his escape from the Greenleaf scandal to be his final escape, but the complicated presence of Meredith, and his initial lie to her at the start of the film follow him, and ruin his life. While Tom’s lies and deceptions have brought him wealth, it also comes back to bite him in the end. Tom was correct when he told Peter that he could not give anyone the keys to his past. Just when you think Tom and Peter are about to start a future together, the past prevents them from doing so, and Tom’s sociopathic impulses drive him to murder the one person he has come to love the most in the world. Both of the objects of Tom’s affection, Dickie and Peter, meet a grisly fate at his hands.
The ending of the film leaves the viewer wondering if perhaps Tom’s greatest flaw, and the source of his violence, is his absence of a stable identity, and his projective desire to become someone he is not. Just in the moment when he seems to free himself from the lying and conning of his past and embark on a new chapter with Peter, karma brings Meredith back into his life, and he must continue putting on the charade that he began impulsively with her at Italian customs. Tom literally cannot escape his own ability to shape shift, and in the presence of Meredith immediately clicks back into his old impersonation of Dickie, even going so far as to kiss her to keep up appearances and keep her on his side. Indeed, Tom is so amoral in his dealings that he is able to betray and strangle the man he loves, confirming a deep and unshakable pathology. Given his enduringly unstable sense of his own identity, Tom would perhaps never have enjoyed a peaceful or uncomplicated life with Peter, in spite of the viewer’s desire for resolution and redemption. Peter’s insistence that Tom is not a “nobody” as he believes is not enough to deliver Tom from his actions. While Tom Ripley is the central protagonist of the film, the ending reminds us that his actions have damned him to isolation, and his own corruptibility will follow him for life.