The Talented Mr. Ripley

A Most Humane Sociopath 10th Grade

“Murderers are not monsters, they're men. And that is the most frightening thing about them,” writes Alice Sebold in her bestselling book The Lovely Bones. This assertion, as disturbing as it is true, illustrates the theme that lies at the very crux of the complex moral dilemmas throughout The Talented Mr. Ripley. In the novel’s multifaceted protagonist Tom Ripley, Patricia Highsmith creates a character that is undeniably flawed in his sociopathic actions, yet at the same time remarkably humane, leaving readers at a loss when they can’t help but recognize themselves in him. However, Tom’s universal relatability stems not from our natural fascination with deviation and murder (though that certainly plays a part), but the fact that no matter how depraved the crimes he commits, he still remains unquestionably sympathizable in his humane qualities. Readers are easily able to identify with all of Tom’s attributes, from his convoluted affections towards Dickie to even his murderous tendencies, because he represents core aspects of basic human nature: the characteristics of ambition, insecurity, and recklessness.

Tom’s ambition and drive, his defining characteristics, are traits basic to human nature, allowing readers to easily...

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