Ripley: Is Tom Ripley Gay? Does He Love Dickie?

Image Credit: Philippe Antonello/NETFLIX

In Netflix’s ‘Ripley,’ a con artist receives the job of a lifetime when he is asked to go to Italy and convince a wealthy man’s son to come back home to America. Tom Ripley has walked amongst the social elites of New York, but he has never been one of them. When he finally gets that chance, he sees no reason not to leap at it. Once he comes to Italy and meets Dickie Greenleaf, whom he is supposed to bring back home, he falls in love with his lifestyle and soon finds himself becoming so invested in having what Dickie has that he is ready to do whatever it takes to do it.

Tom’s obsession with Dickie increases with every day, and several times, the question arises: what does Tom want from Dickie? Is it love and romance? Is Tom in love with Dickie? Is he gay? The answer is not so simple. SPOILERS AHEAD

Tom Ripley’s Sexuality Remains Purposefully Ambiguous

There are several things about Tom that tick off characters like Marge and Freddie, one of which is their suspicion of his homosexuality. It is partly due to their jealousy of how quickly Tom became close friends with Dickie, but there are some things on Tom’s part and the way he behaves around Dickie that make them wonder if Tom is sexually attracted to their friend. Marge is the first one to say it, and this puts the seed of doubt in Dickie’s mind as well. He mentions this to Tom, asking him if he is queer, to which Tom says he is not.

Considering that it is the 60s and homosexuality was not seen in a good light by most people back then, it makes sense why Tom would hide his sexuality from Dickie and the others. He doesn’t want them to alienate him because of it, and while he may have feelings for Dickie, he knows that expressing them or having even a hint of them come out would ruin his chances of being in Dickie’s company. Or so it would seem.

When Patricia Highsmith, who wrote ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ and was a member of the LGBT+ community herself, was asked whether Tom Ripley is gay, she said she didn’t think so. For her, it was more about Tom wanting what the other men had. He wouldn’t necessarily have liked Dickie or wanted to be around him if he wasn’t rich. Having spent so much time together, there is some level of fondness that Tom has for Dickie, but it is not really love. The obsession that Tom has is more for Dickie’s money and the lifestyle it provides rather than for Dickie himself. If it wasn’t for his money, Tom probably wouldn’t spend any minute more than he needs to around him.

Another thing that makes the question of Tom’s sexuality a bit trickier to answer is his social ineptness in forming connections with a man or a woman. As a conman, he is quick on his feet and knows how to get out of situations or how to get his way, even when things might not seem to be in his favor. However, when it comes to his social skills, Tom doesn’t have the same charm that Dickie had. Tom struggles to talk properly with people, and due to the nature of his job, he is always on his tiptoes, careful not to give away something he doesn’t intend to. He is so deeply involved in the impersonations that he has lost sight of who the real Tom is, and this, among other things, keeps him from forming a romantic connection with someone.

Regardless of his social ineptitude, Tom seems entirely unconcerned with his sex life. He never tries to go on a date with someone; he never looks at someone with any semblance of romance in his mind. What others see as his secret, closeted love for Dickie is actually his desire for Dickie’s clothes, rings, art collection, wine, good food, and money. To say he is gay would be to boil down things to a basic level, losing all the nuance and complexities of his character in the process. Tom Ripley doesn’t really seem to give a lot of thought to whether or not he is gay or whom he’d like to have sex with. It doesn’t even seem to cross his mind because he is too preoccupied with figuring out how to get the life that people like Dickie have.

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