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Talented Mr. Ripley discussion guide   Tags: book discussion, patricia highsmith, psychological thriller, talented mr. ripley  

Last Updated: Sep 7, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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Author biography

Highsmith [ˈhī-ˌsmith], Patricia, original name Mary Patricia Plangman [ˈplaŋ-mən] b. Jan. 19, 1921, Fort Worth, Tex., U.S.—died Feb. 4, 1995, Locarno, Switz.

American novelist and short-story writer who was best known for her psychological thrillers in which she delved into the nature of guilt, innocence, goodness, and evil.

Highsmith graduated from Barnard College in 1942. In 1950 she published Strangers on a Train, an intriguing story of two men, one ostensibly good and the other ostensibly evil, who undergo character reversals. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) was the first of several books featuring the adventures of a likeable murderer, Tom RIPLEY, who takes on the identities of his victims. Ripley also appears in Ripley Under Ground (1970), Ripley's Game (1974), The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980), and Ripley Under Water (1991). Highsmith's collections of short stories include The Black House (1981) and Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes (1987).

In her Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (1966; revised and enlarged 1981), Highsmith held that “art has nothing to do with morality, convention or moralizing.”

Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
"Highsmith, Patricia." Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1995. Literature Resource Center. Web. 5 Sep. 2012.


Beautiful Shadow : the life of Patricia Highsmith -- is a full-length 2003 biography by Andrew Wilson

Talented Miss Highsmith -- is a 2009 full-length biography by Joan Schenkar


Additional Biographical Information
can be found at Contemporary Authors Online 


Discussion questions

1. How does the time period effect the way the book was written?

2.How does The Talented Mr. Ripley make a comment on class?

3.In what way does the author explain Tom's development from petty criminal to cold blooded murder?

4.What does Patricia Highsmith want to teach us from Mr. Ripley sustaining a false identity and lying to his friends and to himself?

5.How is The American Dream presented in The Talented Mr Ripley?

6.Why did Mr Ripley deceive others and himself about his identity?

7.When he has dinner with the Greenleafs in New York, Tom promises them he will do everything he can to convince Dickie Greenleaf to return to the U.S. Does Tom keep his promise?

8. What are some of the factors that made Tom's childhood difficult? In your opinion, do they justify Tom's criminal acts as an adult?

9.Is Tom Ripley genuinely interested in other people, or does he just use them?

10.What is Tom Ripley's attitude towards men? Is he sexually attracted to women?

11. How are Dickie Greenleaf and Tom Ripley's relationships with Marge Sherwood different?

12. After Tom kills Freddie Miles and Dickie Greenleaf, is he wracked with guilt and remorse?

13. Why are Dickie Greenleaf's rings so important to Tom? Why does he keep them, even though he knows it is dangerous to have any of Dickie's possessions with him?


Interview with Patricia Highsmith


Plot Overview

Novels for Students presents a thorough outline of the plot and characters broken down by chapers. Essential reading for deep understanding of this title.


Patricia Highsmith on film

Talented Mr. Ripley
starring Matt Damon and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Purple Noon
Foreign language film based on The Talented Mr. Ripley

Cry of the Owl
A troubled young man retreats from the big city and his ex-wife for the tranquility of a small town. He is drawn into a relationship with a young woman whose boyfriend goes missing, leaving the new arrival as a suspect.

Ripley's game
Criminal Tom Ripley draws an innocent man into a murder for hire scheme.


Other titles by Patricia Highsmith

Cover Art
Patricia Highsmith : selected novels and stories - Patricia Highsmith; Joan Schenkar (Editor, Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780393080131
Publication Date: 2010-12-06
The remarkable renaissance of Patricia Highsmith ("Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley") continues with the publication of "The Highsmith Reader," featuring two groundbreaking novels as well as a trove of penetrating short stories.

Cover Art
Ripley under Water - Patricia Highsmith
ISBN: 9780679416777
Publication Date: 1992-10-06
Tom Ripley passes his leisured days at his French country estate tending the dahlias, practicing the harpsichord, and enjoying the company of his lovely wife, Heloise. Never mind the bloodstains on the basement floor. But some new neighbors have moved to Villeperce: the Pritchards, just arrived from America. they are a ghastly pair, with vulgar manners and even more vulgar taste. Most inconvenient, though, is their curiosity. Ripley does, after all, have a few things to hide. When menacing coincidences begin to occur, a spiraling contest of sinister hints and mutual terrorism ensues, resulting in one of Patricia Highsmith's most elegantly harrowing novels to date. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Cover Art
The Boy Who Followed Ripley - Patricia Highsmith
ISBN: 9780690019117
Publication Date: 1980-05-01

Cover Art
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley under Ground, Ripley's Game - Patricia Highsmith
ISBN: 9780375407925
Publication Date: 1999-10-12
Three classic crime novels by a master of the macabre appear here together in hardcover for the first time.

Suave, agreeable, and completely amoral, Patricia Highsmith's hero, the inimitable Tom Ripley, stops at nothing--not even murder-- to accomplish his goals. In achieving for himself the opulent life that he was denied as a child, Ripley shows himself to be a master of illusion and manipulation and a disturbingly sympathetic combination of genius and psychopath. As Highsmith navigates the mesmerizing tangle of Ripley's deadly and sinister games, she turns the mystery genre inside out and takes us into the mind of a man utterly indifferent to evil.

This publication was supported in part by Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, awarded to the New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.


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