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Psychopath or Human?

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Ashh
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Psychopath or human?

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) written by Patricia Highsmith is known for exploring the gap between benevolence and malevolence. The novel engages its readers to question how far one can go to feel a sense of belonging and love. It investigates how narrow the line between evil and human is in real life. Is Tom really a psychopath or is he just a lonely soul looking for acceptance?

To begin with, Tom's depiction of the ideal life is filled with wealth and reputation. He tries to mould himself into the man he thinks will be appreciated by society. This twisted image of society and its standards leaves the reader questioning who is to blame when a sociopath is born. His desire to be Dickie Greenleaf is brutal and unmoral, but still relatable and empathetic. Tom's train of thoughts about loneliness and being admired is heartfelt and impossible to ignore. The talented Mr. Ripley shows how deception and voracity can almost transform anyone into a hedonistic, merciless human. Haysmith manages to almost manipulate the reader to feel sympathy for the miscreant as she describes his thoughts about belonging: "He only wanted a home, a base somewhere, after years of not having any." (Andersson and Ernst, Streams in Literature, 2007, p. 52).

In addition to this, Tom is often referred to as an anti-hero. Reason behind this statement can be explained by Highsmith's narrative flow. The novel provides a striking insight into the mind of a sociopath in his quest to a life in which he is adored by society. Tom's character is comparable to a chameleon with many talents. One among these talents is being able to mimic personalities and eventually becoming them. This description of Tom can also be the definition of a psychopath as he tries to manipulate his way through an inexplicable chain of lies. However, the character's wickedness and somewhat monstrosity is often overseen by his explicit intelligence and capacity to remain calm when stressed.

Although sometimes Tom is relatable, he shows early evidence of a sociopath in the story. He steals Dickie's personality and life without any remorse. Dying his hair, having imaginary conversations with Dickie's acquaintances and lying to people and being anyone but himself seems fine to Tom. It is clear that Tom keep telling himself that being Dickie will lead him to everything he ever wanted. It gives him a sense of affirmation to what he is actually doing. He feels as though it is impossible to feel lonely and bored as long as he is Dickie (Andersson and Ernst, Streams in Literature, 2007, p. 45). Tom's false perception of reality is unethical and loathing, but yet profound and at times heartbreaking. His ability to captivate both the characters and the readers with his charisma is remarkable.

To conclude, Tom shows evidence of being a psychopath. His charismatic ways to manipulate is fascinating to follow. Although the story is about murder and deceit, it is a demonstration of how thin the line between psychopathic and human is. Tom's actions speak for an unstable mental health and the amount of fortitude Tom carries is frightening, but yet comprehensible. After all, Tom does what many of us have thought about doing before. He molds his own life into a person he thinks will be acknowledged. If that is not human, then I do not know what is.

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