The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley Summary and Analysis of Chapters 27-30


The next morning, Marge calls Mr. Greenleaf to tell him about the rings she's found. Mr. Greenleaf comes to the same conclusion as Marge: Dickie giving Tom the rings means he must have decided to kill himself. Marge and Tom go to meet Mr. Greenleaf, who is with the newly arrived American detective he has hired. The detective is a straightforward-seeming man named Alvin McCarron. McCarron asks to see the rings, which Marge has brought. He asks Tom about the circumstances under which he received them, and Tom repeats his story—that Dickie gave him the rings during their final meeting in Rome, asking Tom to take care of them in the event anything happened to him, and that Tom stashed the rings and forgot about them. He explains that, while Dickie usually kept his rings on, he often loaned out clothes to Tom. Tom tells McCarron that Dickie had no enemies, meaning he probably was not murdered. He says that Dickie may be hiding, but that he most likely committed suicide. McCarron quizzes Marge and Tom about the dates on which they last saw Dickie, about their opinion on the possible forgeries at Dickie's bank, and about Dickie's reaction to the death of Freddie Miles. McCarron then asks Tom to leave the room with him for a private conversation. They go to the lobby of Mr. Greenleaf's hotel, where Tom is sure that McCarron will corner him, explaining that he knows the truth. Instead, he asks about Dickie's personality. Tom tries to portray Dickie as a troubled man, with a difficult relationship to both his father and Marge. He explains that Dickie might have killed himself because he recognized his own flaws and was unable to face them. He tells McCarron that Dickie had no reason to kill Freddie, but acknowledges that, logically, he may have been the murderer. McCarron tells Tom that he will be returning to Rome later that day. The two return to Mr. Greenleaf's hotel room, where McCarron asks Marge for a private word. This leaves Tom alone with Mr. Greenleaf. At Greenleaf's request, Tom summarizes his conversation with the detective, explaining that he told McCarron that Dickie most likely committed suicide. Soon after, Tom says farewell to Mr. Greenleaf, who will be leaving that day, and returns to his house.

The next day, McCarron calls Tom with a few follow-up questions, seeking information about Dickie's other contacts in Italy. In the following days Tom feels by turns anxious and optimistic. In his pessimistic moods, he realizes that McCarron is only one logical leap away from the truth. In his optimistic moods, he's glad that he did not kill Marge, since Marge now fully believes that Dickie committed suicide. Greenleaf and McCarron are both back in America, though Tom spoke to Mr. Greenleaf by phone after his return, and found him resigned about the disappearance of his son. Meanwhile, Tom spends time with his friend Peter Smith-Kingsley. Peter is kind and generous with Tom, who he thinks is in mourning for his close friend. One day, Tom has an unnerving experience with Peter, realizing how easily he could kill Peter as he killed Dickie and Freddie. Tom even begins to cry, realizing that he misses Dickie, although to Peter, this seems like completely normal behavior for a mourner.

Chapter 29 opens directly onto a letter written by Tom to Mr. Greenleaf. He describes finding Dickie's (fabricated) will, and explains his own shock and bewilderment at finding out that Dickie has left him all of his money and possessions. Tom knows that sending the letter is dangerous, but he is craving excitement, since the investigation into Dickie's death has seemingly stalled out, and since he is running low on money. He is also due to leave for Greece, and wants to stir up some drama before setting off, since the idea of seeing Greece as an uninteresting and cash-strapped tourist is unappealing to him. After sending the letter and just before leaving for Greece, Tom visits the house of a friend in Venice, the Countess Titi della Latta-Cacciaguerra. Titi tells Tom that his friend Dickie's possessions have been found in storage at the American Express in Venice, having been sent from Rome. Tom is terrified, realizing that Dickie's things might have his fingerprints on them and could reveal that he was Dickie's killer. He is clearly upset, which confuses Titi, who considers the discovery welcome news in an otherwise stagnant investigation. Tom tries to disguise his nerves as pessimism by claiming that Dickie must have intended to kill himself, and therefore chose to store all of his things. Titi, like Peter, comforts Tom, assuming that he is suffering from grief.

On the last night before he leaves for Greece, Tom feels sure that he will be found out as Dickie and Freddie's killer. He regrets sending Mr. Greenleaf the letter about Dickie's will, feeling that it will appear suspicious in light of any other new evidence. He feels scared and exhausted when he boards the ship to Greece, and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes up later that night, he wanders onto the ship's deck, where he finds himself all alone. There Tom has an almost transcendent experience, feeling that, even if he is arrested, his months of adventure after Dickie's death have been worth it. In the following days, he befriends an elderly passenger named Mrs. Cartwright. She asks to meet with him in Greece, and he agrees, but secretly assumes he will be in police custody long before they have the opportunity to meet up. When the ship docks, Tom sees a row of policemen waiting at the harbor. He walks boldly toward them, sure he will be stopped, but they do not react to his presence at all. Confused, he buys an Italian newspaper at a nearby stand. There he sees an article explaining that the fingerprints on Dickie's discovered luggage match those in his apartment. This, Tom knows, is because both sets of fingerprints belong to him and not to Dickie. However, the paper says, investigators have concluded that the match means Dickie packed his own luggage. Thus he must have packed his own luggage either by choice before assuming a new identity or committing suicide, or because he was forced to by the person who killed him. In any case, it seems, Tom is no longer a suspect at all. He absorbs this news in disbelief, realizing that he has gotten away with his plan completely. He goes to the nearby American Express to pick up his mail, and there he receives a letter from Mr. Greenleaf. Greenleaf says that he is unsurprised by news of Dickie's will, since Dickie was fond of Tom. He expresses no opposition to Tom inheriting Dickie's money. Tom revels in his good fortune and newfound wealth. He knows that he might be found out one day in the future, but decides not to live in fear of that, and instead to enjoy his new life. He climbs into a taxi and asks the driver to take him to the city's very best hotel.


In these final chapters, Tom has several encounters in which he must disguise his own feelings of nervousness, guilt, and fear as mere grief. His true feelings are a response to having killed Dickie, while his false ones are a response to a more socially acceptable phenomenon—missing his friend. Interestingly, though, as he pretends to be a standard mourner, he finds himself genuinely feeling like one as well. When Peter treats him with tenderness and patience, Tom's inner world shifts to match his outer presentation. He begins to actually miss Dickie, for the first time. This is new for him: even when Dickie was alive, Tom felt a competitive desire to win his favor, but never a reflective affection. As usual, though, Tom becomes what he pretends to be. Just as he finds himself killing people almost automatically after imagining killing them, he finds himself grieving someone after simply putting on a performance of grief. This also reflects a paradox in the way that Tom deals with other people. Rather than resolving tensions in his relationships, he simply avoids the other person, either by putting on an act or by simply killing the other person. For example, Tom deals with unrequited longing for Dickie by murdering him. This means that he can never achieve a satisfying resolution in any relationship. He cuts himself off before any progress has been made, jumping straight from tension and longing to grief and absence without any attempt at reconciliation.

However, Tom never truly seeks out satisfying resolutions. His ego is at once huge and fragile, leading him to seek ever-larger rewards in order to feel validated and excited. For this reason, he decides to send Mr. Greenleaf the letter about Dickie's will, disrupting a fragile equilibrium and putting himself at risk of being found out and arrested. He does not strictly need the money from Dickie's will, but he cannot bear the thought of feeling ordinary, and having a small budget makes him feel ordinary. To feel extraordinary, though, he needs ever-greater rewards. Dickie's will may give him the rush he needs for some time, but it seems almost inevitable that Tom will soon seek another source of validation.

Although Tom is a self-destructive and undoubtedly immoral character, Patricia Highsmith resists moralizing at every turn. Readers may feel primed to expect that Tom's crimes will be discovered and that he will meet some sort of justice, since the narrative swings so heavily in his favor for so long. Even Tom himself fully expects that his actions will catch up with him. Like most readers, Tom is used to hearing stories in which actions have consequences. In fact, cause and effect are such foundational aspects of most narratives that Tom's complete success in his crime spree feels like a breach of the contract between reader and writer. Highsmith, though, lets her main character get away with ever-more extravagant crimes. The unhappy ending for Tom is not arrest or prison. Instead, it's the fact that nothing ever really changes for him. At the book's beginning, Tom is a restless, antisocial young man with a proclivity for lying and a superiority complex. At the end of the book, he has more money and a higher social status, and he is briefly titillated by this knowledge. Yet he's still that same restless young man, unable to find real happiness or connect to other people. While this book is jam-packed with sensational events, its main character hardly changes at all.