This paper aims to illuminate the actions of various characters in Anthony Minghella’s film “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by examining the causes and consequences of problems arising in the inner self of a young man called Tom Ripley. This will be undertaken with regard to the archetype, persona as posited by Jung. It will be argued that the balance between the self and the persona is essential in the individual process and that Tom is actually hiding behind others’ persona and he does not recognize his true self. According to Jung, every human being has two separate sides. One of them is conscious in our minds and the other is unconscious. All the archetypes that he found are in the unconscious part of our mind, but they are as being archetypal image a little bit different from unconscious with reflecting themselves in our daily life. For Jung, archetypes are the arrangements of beliefs that we share with each other. Jung’s persona, in his opinion, is the mask that we have in the society. In other words, it is our tool to present ourselves to the outside world with another self. Even if it sounds like something we should not have it is something that we need to be compatible with people. However, Jung points out that the balance between the self and persona should be well assembled. The adoption of persona to ourselves too much will be very dangerous since it will cause our real selves to disappear, and we could become so confused of what we wished to create and what we really are, just as Tom Ripley did. Therefore, this paper will conclude by showing that the balance between self and persona should be constructed in a perfect way and people should learn to recognize their true self.
Anthony Minghella’s Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) is about assumed identities, class differences, unrequited love, Americans abroad, dangerous attraction, hide the dead body, love at first sight, self-destructive romance, serial killers and unlikely criminals. The movie is based on the story of a young man who feels himself as a complete outsider and wants to exchange his identity for someone else’s. This is the movie’s core notion. The problems start when New York’s one of the richest man Herbert Greenleaf’s son Dickie (Jude Law) leaves the house to settle in Italy in order to become an artist. Since his mother is sick, father Greenleaf wants his son to turn back to USA. Meanwhile Dickie is enjoying a seductive life where he spends his days in white-sanded beaches, charismatic drifters and a beautiful fiancée Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow ). Being rich, young and care free he lives a fabulous life among the blue waters and calm landscape of sunny post war Italy in the late 1950s, without even caring to what his father says to and wants from him. It is clear to understand that there is something going wrong between the father and son. What we know when the movie starts is about Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), who subordinates himself to the places he is in and to the people he is with. He is a man who uses mimicry and dishonesty to survive in the world. Ripley is a Manhattan lavatory attendant who wants to be a musician and more than that he wants to be someone else; somebody rich, somebody suave, somebody who is charismatic, I mean somebody just like Dickie Greenleaf. It is easy to see his desire to become like Dickie even before he meets Dickie. He is disappointed with himself, feels inferiority complex and he is at the edge of things. He lived with an unloving aunt and that was the reason why he had a very big hunger for love. Tom is the character who has a lot of talent but no money. He is good-looking and knows the good manners but he is not charming and charismatic like Dickie Greenleaf.
One day Tom borrows a Princeton jacket to play piano at a garden party. In that party he meets Dickie’s father and Mr. Greenleaf thinks Tom as one of his son’s friends from Princeton. So, the moneymaker Mr. Greenleaf asks Tom to go to Italy, which will be paid by him of course, to persuade his son to turn back to USA. Tom accepts this attractive offer since that is the chance of his life and goes immediately to Italy. Just even before going to Italy, he wears his masks and starts listening jazz music in order to affect Dickie. When he finally meets Dickie and also his compassionate fiancée Marge in Italy with a very intelligent plan he became able to affect young couple. Dickie and Marge like Tom very much and as soon as Dickie learns why Tom is there, he feels Tom very close to him and so he asks him to stay a little more at their house. Tom admires Dickie’s life and did not have chance to say no to fine clothes, fine wine, fine yachts and to the trips they make to exotic islands. He gets caught up in the high life that he joins Dickie and Freddie -Dickie’s best friend- (Philip Seymour Hoffman) going around to jazz clubs, swimming in Mediterranean and enjoying the blond goddesses around -Dickie’s fiancé Marge and a young American lady traveling across Europe named as Meredith Lounge (Cate Blanchett)-. Ripley reinvents himself to a world that is beyond his means and in the moment that we expect him to steal Marge’s heart, he makes us learn about his little secret. His envy over the money and opportunities that Dickie has causes him to be jealous of Dickie. He wants to be like Dickie, he wants to insert himself into Dickie’s life and forget everything about his working class background.
“Tom Ripley: If I cold just go back… If I could rub everything out… Starting with myself.” (Memorable quotes from Talented Mr. Ripley)
“Tom Ripley: You’re the brother I never had. I’m the brother you never had. I would do anything for you, Dickie.” (Memorable quotes from Talented Mr. Ripley)
“Tom Ripley: I could live Dickie’s life for him.” (Memorable quotes from Talented Mr. Ripley)
However, there is something more... Tom desires to be with Dickie. When he is rejected, Tom decides to relieve into Dickie’s identity. So, he kills Dickie. Killing Dickie and taking all the opportunity to live his life is not a hard thing for Tom, since he was also talented in falsification and impressions as well as in lying. At the end, he kills three people; all three were guilty of discovering the fake Tom Ripley. He wears a mask, he is afraid to show the real self or maybe even worse he would not be able to show his real self. He is poor but wise, talented but mentally problematic. He does not have any identity what he does is to imitate people and make fake signatures. He lies and that is the only thing that he does. He lies. He is not able to control his persona and so he cannot do anything to avoid establishing an over developed persona.
“Dickie Greenleaf: Everybody has got to have a talent, what’s yours?
Tom Ripley: Telling lies, forging signatures and impersonating almost anybody.” (Memorable quotes from Talented Mr. Ripley)
To sum up, Talented Mr. Ripley is a thriller that tells us the story of a man without any personality but many personas because of the inferiority complex he has. Instead of using his talents to survive in the society and to get a good and well-respected position, he lies and kills people and he tries to act like them. What does Jung says about this then? Jung’s archetypes are believed to be the secret parts of our personality, which has all different roles that forms our character. According to Jung, every person has two different sides, consciousness and unconsciousness. Unconsciousness is the part where all the archetypes exist. Some of his important archetypes are persona, shadow, ego, self, anima and animus. To analyze the Talented Mr. Ripley it would be better to use persona.
Persona comes from Latin and it means “actor’s mask”. It is our tool to present ourselves to outside world. Persona is our supporter for being the necessary object to hide our real selves behind. “The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual” (Jung, C.G., 1983:94). The society we live in, according to Jung, expects us to have at least one persona, which we play perfectly. No man is expected to have more than one persona, for that would be funny, odd. If a man would have too many personas says Jung, then he would be different. Jung continues by saying; “He would always be suspected of unreliability and incompetence” (Jung, C.G., 1983:94). Jung also points out that persona can be affected from the other archetypes like anima or animus. Actually, it can be supported also in the movie since Tom is gay. It can be said that he is gay because inside his unconscious part he also has a woman, which shows itself as another mask that he is wearing. He is a very sensible person; it is easy to hurt his feelings. At these points, he is like a lady. Tom’s inner world is darker and more complex than a normal human’s inner world. He really has lost his real self. He kills the possibility to love himself while he is using different masks for making people like him. He also gives up the opportunity -he always tries to be someone else- and then ends up with someone who would be perfectly happy with Ripley being Ripley and he cannot be with him. Therefore, the film ends with someone reciting his talents.
As a result I could say that what had happened to Tom Ripley is his desire to be a person who is appreciated in the society. This wish caused him to become a liar and he started to become a different person that has nothing to do with his ideal. After a certain point, he lost his control and he was a kind of prisoner in unconscious part of his own mind. He had some sexual and economic inferiority and instead of trying to show his good parts to people, he lied on the bad realities of his part. If he was not too ashamed of what he is then he might have been accepted and none of this would have happened. He played with all the balance of the conscious and unconscious in his mind to be accepted by people, which was the biggest mistake he had ever done.
1. Storr, A., The Essential Jung, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983
2. Jung, C.G., Mandala symbolism, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973
3. Jung, C.G., Psychology of the unconscious: a study of transformations and symbolism Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991
4. “Memorable Quotes From The Talented Mr. Ripley” http://us.imdb.com/Quotes?0134119
5. Blackwelder, R., “Hitchcock Revisited” http://www.splicedonline.com/99reviews/ripley.html
6. “Dr. Daniel’s Review of The Talented Mr. Ripley” http://www.stairwell.com/doc/exam/ripley.html
 “Herbert Greenleaf: People say that you can’t choose your parents, but you know you can’t choose your children either.” (Memorable quotes from Talented Mr. Ripley)
 “Dickie Greenleaf: You know, without glasses you’re not even ugly.” (Memorable quotes from Talented Mr. Ripley)
 “Tom Ripley: I really feel happy. As if I had been granted a new release in life” (Memorable quotes from Talented Mr. Ripley)
 “Tom Ripley: (Imitating Dickie’s father) To me, jazz is noise. Insolent noise.
Dickie Greenleaf: Wow! Cut it out! It’s so spooky, my hairs on end. (Memorable quotes from Talented Mr. Ripley)”