The Well-Adjusted Mister Ripley

The Talented Mister Ripley is a novel by Patricia Highsmith about a reserved young man who buys a hat on a trip to Europe! and in so doing realizing he has quite a nice face! Subsequently he learns to believe in himself, and to be confident, and to make friends, and that people like people who like people! And that it’s nice to want to be like your friends, and that you can do anything you put your mind to, even Italy, especially friendship, just boys.

As soon as he could get a passport, he’d be sailing for Europe, probably in a first-class cabin. Waiters to bring him things when he pushed a button! Dressing for dinner, strolling into a big dining room, talking with people at his table like a gentleman! He could congratulate himself on tonight, he thought. He had behaved just right. Mr. Greenleaf couldn’t possibly have had the impression that he had wangled the invitation to Europe. Just the opposite. He wouldn’t let Mr. Greenleaf down. He’d do his very best with Dickie.

Setting an intention is such an important part of being Tom Ripley! If you make clear goals, you’ll always know where you are. And it’s nice to celebrate small victories, like behaving just right at dinner. Terrific!

But first there was céleri rémoulade. Tom was very fond of it. He said so.

“So is Richard!” Mrs. Greenleaf said. “He always liked it the way our cook makes it. A pity you can’t take him some.”

“I’ll put it with the socks,” Tom said, smiling, and Mrs. Greenleaf laughed. She had told him she would like him to take Richard some black woolen socks from Brooks Brothers, the kind Richard always wore.

Ha-ha! He won’t really put celery in with the socks. But what a funny idea! I’m glad he told Mrs. Greenleaf about it, so she could enjoy the idea too.

“And here’s the girl there, the only other American who lives there.”

 “Marge Sherwood,” Mr. Greenleaf supplied. He sat across the room, but he was leaning forward, following the picture-showing intently.

The girl was in a bathing suit on the beach, her arms around her knees, healthy and unsophisticated-looking, with tousled, short blonde hair—the good-egg type. There was a good picture of Richard in shorts, sitting on the parapet of a terrace.

Marge seems like a lot of fun! Maybe all three of them can be friends. There’s always room for another friend!

Cleo was enthralled, as he had known she would be. Her red lips parted in her long, pale face, and she brought her hands down on her velvet thighs and exclaimed, “Tom-mie! How too, too marvelous! It’s just like out of Shakespeare or something!”

That was just what Tom thought, too. That was just what he had needed someone to say.


He was courteous, poised, civilized, and preoccupied.

He had a sudden whim for a cap and bought one in the haberdashery, a conservative bluish-gray cap of soft English wool. He could pull its visor down over nearly his whole face when he wanted to nap in his deck chair, or wanted to look as if he were napping. A cap was the most versatile of headgears, he thought, and he wondered why he had never thought of wearing one before? He could look like a country gentleman, a thug, an Englishman, a Frenchman, or a plain American eccentric, depending on how he wore it. Tom amused himself with it in his room in front of the mirror. He had always thought he had the world’s dullest face, a thoroughly forgettable face with a look of docility that he could not understand, and a look also of vague fright that he had never been able to erase. A real conformist’s face, he thought. The cap changed all that. It gave him a country air, Greenwich, Connecticut, country. Now he was a young man with a private income, not long out of Princeton, perhaps. He bought a pipe to go with the cap.

Wow!!! Things are looking pretty good for old Tom Ripley, and now with a hat! And it’s nice to see some character development. Not that Tom needed to change!!! But increased self-esteem can only help. He’s not forgettable at all!

He was versatile, and the world was wide! He swore to himself he would stick to a job once he got it. Patience and perseverance! Upward and onward!

Setting goals is a critical part of personal growth!!

As you see by the stationery, I am on the high seas. An unexpected business offer which I cannot explain now. I had to leave rather suddenly, so I was not able to get up to Boston and I’m sorry, because it may be months or even years before I come back.

I just wanted you not to worry and not to send me any more checks, thank you. Thank you very much for the last one of a month or so ago. I don’t suppose you have sent any more since then. I am well and extremely happy.


Thank you very much for the considerate letter, Tom, is I bet what his aunt will write back!

Lots of aunts and even strangers raised a child for nothing and were delighted to do it.


When he woke up the next morning, he was in Italy. Something very pleasant happened that morning. Tom was watching the landscape out of the window, when he heard some Italians in the corridor outside his compartment say something with the word “Pisa” in it. A city was gliding by on the other side of the train. Tom went into the corridor to get a better look at it, looking automatically for the Leaning Tower, though he was not at all sure that the city was Pisa or that the tower would even be visible from here, but there it was!—a thick white column sticking up out of the low chalky houses that formed the rest of the town, and leaning, leaning at an angle that he wouldn’t have thought possible! He had always taken it for granted that the leaning of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was exaggerated. It seemed to him a good omen, a sign that Italy was going to be everything that he expected, and that everything would go well with him and Dickie.

Way to make lemonades out of lemons, Tom! Yes, that tower is leaning — but it’s supposed to, for luck. The little imperfections are sometimes what makes something truly beautiful!

He spent the time examining Dickie’s rings. He liked them both: a large rectangular green stone set in gold on the third finger of his right hand, and on the little finger of the other hand a signet ring, larger and more ornate than the signet Mr. Greenleaf had worn. Dickie had long, bony hands, a little like his own hands, Tom thought.

What a great point of connection!

He could remember Dickie’s smiles that first day they began to get along, when he had confessed to Dickie that his father had sent him. He remembered their crazy first trip to Rome. He remembered with affection even that half hour in the Carlton Bar in Cannes, when Dickie had been so bored and silent, but there had been a reason why Dickie had been bored, after all: he had dragged Dickie there, and Dickie didn’t care for the Côte d’ Azur.

It’s always a good idea to reconsider a situation from someone else’s perspective, especially if it helps you to treat a friend with greater patience and consideration. And what a lot of nice places Tom and Dickie have been!

It gave his existence a peculiar, delicious atmosphere of purity, like that, Tom thought, which a fine actor probably feels when he plays an important role on a stage with the conviction that the role he is playing could not be played better by anyone else. he was himself and yet not himself. He felt blameless and free, despite the fact that he consciously controlled every move he made. But he no longer felt tired after several hours of it, as he had at first. Now, from the moment when he got out of bed and went to brush his teeth, he was Dickie, brushing his teeth with his right elbow jutted out, Dickie rotating the eggshell on his spoon for the last bite. Dickie invariably putting back the first tie he pulled off the rack and selecting a second. He had even produced a painting in Dickie’s manner.

You can do anything you set your mind to, and it feels really good, and it’s the most of it, and it’s everything, and it’s always but easy, and it’s happening now, and you’re pulling it off, and nothing’s underward. And it’s absolutely. It’s absolutely. Absolutely, absolutely.

There was a sureness in his taste now that he had not felt in Rome, and that his Rome apartment had not hinted at. He felt surer of himself now in every way.

Wow, that’s great!

“A donda, a donda?” the taxi driver was saying, trying to speak Italian for him.

“To a hotel, please,” Tom said. “Il meglio albergo. Il meglio, il meglio!”

That means “the best”! I bet the taxi driver appreciates that Tom has gone to the trouble of learning Italian, so they can understand one another more easily. I know I would!