__Earl’s comments in RED
Lit.Modern 145D
October 23, 1998

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Highsmith’s Slow Approach: Equals Suspense Fiction

The almost entirely too slow approach

[this would mean a slow approach to reading her book. I know what you mean but your syntax says otherwise.] to Patricia Highsmith’s book The Talented Mr. Ripley makes her book that much more suspenseful. The fact that you don’t know when Ripley is going to strike [Was that essentially where the interest is held, waiting for Ripley to commit an antisocial deed? If so, what is the artistic and/or intellectual merit in that?], pulls my eyes in further [This is not a metaphor current in modern colloquial English. What do you mean by it?] until when I least expect it, another murder takes place again [some one can only be murdered once, so a murder never „takes place again“. Secondly, since there are only two murders in the book, and they’re quite far apart, doesn’t it seem somewhat misleading to say that „when I least expect it another murder!“ That sounds more like a murder spree, which this novel definitely is not.] If the eyes grow too impatient and too weary [whos eyes?] from the possible uneventful beginning it’s their loss, because what they can’t wait for is what they’re missing [But the reader stays with it? Where do the eyes go if they can’t wait?].

I am first introduced

[You personally?] to the character Tom Ripley in a sort of mesmerizing fashion. Highsmith opens with Ripley being followed, but it isn’t the chase that keeps my attention but the actual early descriptions of Tom Ripley. Right away Ripley is described as a sort of nonchalant, type of sleaze with no guilt. His lying ability in unbelievable and his con jobs are a tremendous performance that deserves an Oscar nomination. It is his guilt free conscience that keeps me reading and totally intrigued with his character even if he is just simply walking down the street.

It is as early as the first chapter that we find Ripley as very untruthful

[When should a character’s flaws be revealed?].

RTCharley Schriever told me you were in the insurance business,‘ Mr. Greenleaf said pleasantly…Tom Ripley replies, TThat was a little while ago. I–‚ But he didn’t want to say he was working for the Department of Internal Revenue, not now. TI’m in the accounting department of an advertising agency at the moment,’S (p. 5).

All these jobs white lies and untruths that keep Ripley’s life afloat. But it is also this unmerciful tendency that Tom Ripley has to be untruthful that keeps me wondering, what could he possibly do next, or worse, how far would he go?

Highsmith continues her story line

[Why personalize it? The narrative moves forward.]through a pretty much drab scenery of Ripley setting off overseas[„Ripley setting off overseas“ is not scenery. Syntax!] in search of Dickie Greanleaf. We are taken through a couple dry chapters of just Ripley’s thoughts and deceiving plans once he arrives in Mongibello. Nothing too eventful takes place there, or not until after all of Highsmith’s unsuspecting characters are brought into play that she decides to creep up and add scandal and death to the story line. When you are least expecting it Highsmith strikes. As if it were some sort of accident. Ripley commits the crime like it was nothing. In one instance Tom and Dickie are about to go swimming, Rand when Dickie was shoving his trousers down, Tom lifted the oar and came down with it on the top of Dickie’s head,S (p104). The tone given in all of Ripley’s murders are calm and sort of nonchalant, like it was no big deal, just your average Ripley day. It is after this first, sort of casual murder that enthralls me to read more, because when I was sure that nothing more would happen something did. Highsmith makes complete circles of suspense. One of the most unsuspecting and almost humorous (in a sick and twisted way) is Freddie’s murder, because just like Ripley’s first murder in the book it almost seemed like it was an accident [Yes, I agree. Good phrase]. We always seem in the dark with Ripley’s murders, never really knowing who and when he’ll strike. As the beginning of one paragraph starts after a line of Freddie’s is cut off, RThe curved edge of the ash-tray hit the middle of his forehead. Freddie looked dazed,S (p. 143). The suspense isn’t the usual gut wrenching murder, but that’s what makes it so great. It’s unlike most. The suspense comes in when even Ripley himself doesn’t even know he is going to kill. There is no building to the murders just a messy after effect. That is Ripley trying to cover up the latest mess he started.

I honestly believe that Highsmith’s slow approach is a tactic to scare the reader and create a new type of suspense

[Interesting]. When we least expect it something suspenseful happens. Highsmith’s writing is so slow and deviant, even her main character Tom Ripley doesn’t know [A character in a novel never knows anything. He or she doesn’t exist. Tom isn’t sitting around in the novel getting bored, waiting for Highsmith to give him somethig to do.]when he’s going to kill again.

*note that where all apostrophies should be there are giant Us. I apologize, I just had a hard time doing an attachment. Thank You

[That’s ok, I fixed them ;-)].





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