The white, taut sheets of his berth on the train seemed the most wonderful luxury he had ever known. He caressed them with his hands before he turned the light out. And the clean blue-grey blankets, the spanking efficiency of the little black net over his head – Tom had an ecstatic moment when he thought of all the pleasures that lay before him now with Dickie’s money, other beds, tables, seas, ships, suitcases, shirts, years of freedom, years of pleasure. Then he turned the light out and put his head down and almost at once fell asleep, happy, content, and utterly, utterly confident, as he had never been before in his life.
I gotta tell you, that would not be my immediate reaction after doing what Thomas Ripley had done. No, sirree, if I’d thrown a man overboard after smashing him on the head with an oar, and stealing his identity, I would not be experiencing a happy, content, and utterly confident sleep.
It is therefore with wonder that I continued on in this novel. Like watching a slow motion train wreck, I grappled with my fascination in the plot and my horror at Tom’s behavior. How can he possibly think he will get away with it? How can he manage the deception long term? How can he tolerate the guilt?
But, when I came to this part, it made a tiny bit of sense:
He went on packing. This was the end of Dickie Greenleaf, he knew. He hated becoming Thomas Ripley again, hated being nobody, hated putting on his old set of habits again, and feeling that people looked down on him and were bored with him unless he put on an act for them like a clown, feeling incompetent and incapable of doing anything with himself except entertaining people for minutes at a time. He hated going back to himself as he would have hated putting on a shabby suit of clothes, a grease-spotted, unpressed suit of clothes that had not been very good even when it was new.
That gets me thinking. For haven’t you hated something about yourself at least once? Haven’t you wished there was something about yourself you could change? If you had the chance, would you swap identities with someone else? Would you leave New York for Rome? (The later? I would in a heartbeat!)
None of us would kill another. But, the idea of abandoning one’s identity, in one way or another, is a little compelling to me. It makes me grasp just how talented, albeit psychotic, Mr. Ripley is.