Jungian Archetypes in “The Talented Mr. Ripley"

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Jungian Archetypes in “The Talented Mr. Ripley"

Post  mollyshaw on Tue Jan 25, 2011 12:05 pm


Tom Ripley begins his journey to Italy with good intentions. He attempts to fulfill the wealthy Mr. Greenleaf’s wish to bring his son, Dickie, back to America. Tom sets out to do this, but once he befriends Dickie, his intentions change. Dickie makes Tom feel accepted for the first time, but once Dickie realizes how clingy Tom is, he tries to send him away. Tom cannot imagine going back to America after living the high life with Dickie and his wife, so he kills Dickie and assumes his identity. At some points in the story, Tom actually believes that he is Dickie Greenleaf.

Symbolic Archetypes:

The Battle Between Good & Evil:
The protagonist, Tom Ripley is an insecure misfit who fights a battle of good and evil within himself constantly. He is brilliant and is only looking for acceptance and an outlet from his meager lifestyle. “I feel as if I have been handed a new life.” – Tom Ripley

At some points in the film, I sympathized with Tom such as when Dickie starts to treat him badly and leave him out in social situations, crushing the happiness Tom had finally found. But at other times, Tom stretches his web of lies even further to cover up his crimes and it is questionable whether or not Tom truly has evil intentions.

Character Archetypes:

The Outcast:
Tom Ripley is outcast from society in the beginning of the film because of his insecure personality and possible mental illness. In the middle, he is integrated into social groups with the help of Dickie and his wife, Marge. At the end of the story, he ends up outcast once again because of the murders he has committed and his inability to relate to anyone. “Don’t you ever just put the past in a room? …And when you meet someone special you just want to hand them the key. But you can’t, because it’s dark in there.” – Tom Ripley

The Scapegoat:
Dickie Greenleaf is the scapegoat in this story. He is manipulated, robbed and ultimately killed by Tom, having done nothing unreasonable to harm Tom. Dickie’s death made Tom more powerful, as he stole everything from his, including his identity. Although the murder of Dickie destroys Tom in the ending, Tom does this to himself. “I’ve made a mess of being Dickie Greenleaf.” –Tom Ripley

Situational Archetypes:

The Unhealable Wound:
In the beginning of the film, Tom is a misfit in society and lives a lonely, confused life. It is his self-doubt that leads him to kill Dickie and live his life instead of his own. “I always thought it would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.” – Tom Ripley

The Magic Weapon:
At one point in the film, Dickie asks Tom, “Everybody has one talent…what’s yours?” to which he responds, “telling lies, forging signatures and impersonating people.”

Tom’s ‘magic weapon’ is his mind. This is the tool he uses to get away with fraud and murder. This talent makes him more powerful than everyone else as he can easily manipulate others and nobody can use this weapon but him.


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Water symbolism

Post  janealicek on Sat Jan 29, 2011 3:03 pm

The symbolic archetype of water could be applied to the film. When Ripley murders Dickie during their boat outing he must swim back to shore. Water represents rebirth in Jungian archetypal imagery. After the death of Dickie, Ripley experiences a rebirth into his new fake identity as Dickie. It is symbolic that Dickie must swim in the water to shore because he is reborn while doing so.


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Post  Mr. C on Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:11 pm

Molly - you have tackled several archetypes with this film. Well done! Remember to sometimes quote from the source notes I gave you and then apply them to the film. For example, when you discuss the Scapegoat, you mention how he is an innocent victim and didn't deserve death. In such a description, I can see you are referring to the notes. However, when you mention that Tom is battling the good and evil within himself, you need to expand a little more. What exactly is the good in him and what exactly is the bad and demonstrate how they are polar opposites.

Jane - nice addition with the water symbolism and Rebirth (also baptismal symbolism).
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Re: Jungian Archetypes in “The Talented Mr. Ripley"

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