Is Tom Ripley In Love With Dickie Greenleaf? Ripley’s Obsession Explained

5 April 2024, 14:51

Ripley dropped on Netflix on the 4th of April
Ripley dropped on Netflix on the 4th of April. Picture: Alamy

By Tiasha Debray

Netflix’s Ripley followed the story of Tom Ripley’s obsession with Dickie Greenleaf, but what was the relationship between Tom and Dickie? Was Ripley attracted to Dickie? Did Tom have a crush on him? Or was Tom in love with Dickie?

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Netflix’s Ripley has dropped on the platform and the dark psychological thriller has taken the world by storm. The combination of the fabulous cast, alongside its incredible filming locations and its sinister story, has got viewers hooked to their screens.

Originally based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ was first published in 1955 and has had several adaptations since then. What keeps bringing fans back is the complicated infatuation between Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf.

But what’s behind Tom’s infatuation with Dickie? Is it real romantic love turned obsession, does Tom love Dickie? Or is it much more sinister than that?

Warning: Show spoilers ahead.

Netflix's Ripley will be based off the 1955 novel of the same name
Netflix's Ripley will be based off the 1955 novel of the same name. Picture: Alamy

Is Ripley’s Tom in love with Dickie?

Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer of yes or no as to whether Tom loved Dickie, for the most part, it seems Tom was mostly motivated by jealousy and envy.

At the beginning of the series, Tom’s relationship with Dickie was clear-cut. He was being paid by Dickie’s father to travel to Italy and convince Dickie to return home to New York and fulfil his obligations to his family.

However once Tom saw the lavish lifestyle Dickie enjoys, his interest was peaked. Tom wanted what Dickie had when it came to money and material objects, this is symbolised in the mini-series by Dickie’s enormous art collection.

Once Tom had gotten away with stealing Dickie’s life, he’s seen unveiling an original Picasso that was owned by Dickie and hung in his apartment.

Dakota Fanning, Johnny Flynn & Andrew Scott will lead in their roles in Netflix's Ripley
Dakota Fanning, Johnny Flynn & Andrew Scott will lead in their roles in Netflix's Ripley. Picture: Alamy

There are moments in the show where it seemed like Tom had developed strong feelings for Dickie, but what he was feeling, whether genuine or not, would always be tainted by his envy for Dickie.

In the book written in 1955, Tom’s sexuality was completely ambiguous. The author Patricia spoke in the past about how she did not write Tom as a gay character but more as a sociopath. Someone who would sleep with anyone, gender aside, if it helped him move up in the world.

The author, who happened to be part of the queer community herself, had discussed how Tom’s desires weren’t sexually based but rather revolve entirely around wealth and power.

Dakota Fanning will star in Netflix's Ripley as Marge Sherwood
Dakota Fanning will star in Netflix's Ripley as Marge Sherwood. Picture: Alamy

In Netflix’s eight-part mini-series, Marge Sherwood, who is played by Dakota Fanning became suspicious of Tom’s sexuality and brought the issue to Dickie’s attention.

When Dickie brought up the subject to Tom, Tom brushed off the rumours but their relationship soured from that point on.

The rejection Tom felt motivated him to kill Dickie, and led the audience to the main act of the series, where Tom impersonated Dickie and finally became him like he always dreamt.

In an interview with Interview Magazine, Andrew Scott who played Tom Ripley described him as a “very lonely character” who was “[seen] on his own quite a lot.”

Andrew Scott wants to explore Ripley's 'queerness'
Andrew Scott wants to explore Ripley's 'queerness'. Picture: Alamy

Andrew is an openly gay actor and revealed he was interested in exploring Tom’s ‘queerness’ in his interpretation of the role for Netflix. Speaking to the magazine, Andrew stated, “There’ve been various iterations of the character, some of which I’ve seen and some of which I’ve avoided.”

“When you’re playing those famous literary characters, you don’t want to just copy. I’m interested in the idea of what queerness is, and otherness because that’s what I think it’s about.”

“The reason he’s such an interesting character is you can’t quite place him.” He goes on to say, “If Tom Ripley was in a gay bar, I’m not sure that he would fit in there. Nor do I think he’s a straight character.”

Watch the trailer for Ripley

“I think he’s a queer character, in the sense that he’s very “other.” What’s his relationship with sex, or death, or with family or friends? It’s interesting that a character is the sum of the parts that you don’t have to play.”

What Tom felt for Dickie was far more intense than just ‘sexual attraction’ and far less pure than ‘love.’

His murder of Dickie was a far cry from a crime of passion, as it resulted in his obsession with Dickie’s clothes, his art and his life being satisfied.

So while you’re not going to get a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer about the question of whether ‘Tom loved Dickie?,’ it’s leaning more towards a ‘no.’

Gathering what we know about his character and what the author has said about Tom, we can understand he probably didn’t have the ability to ‘love’ as a normal person loves.

He ultimately had no care for Dickie’s well-being and no qualms about desecrating his memory, so can that be called love

Tom’s obsession with Dickie was always based on a hunger for power, status and wealth and it was wrapped up under the guise of enamour.

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