The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Five “calm, solitary, agreeable” days pass as Tom explores Palermo, Sicily. He is lonely, realizing that he will “have to keep a distance from people, always.” In Palermo, he takes on a new role: that of a “detached observer of life.”
Tom’s realization that his life will not be what he hoped it would be saddens him, but he leans into his “new role” nonetheless.
Themes
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Two letters arrive: one from Dickie’s bank in Naples and one from his trust company in New York. The letters call into question the veracity of the signatures on Dickie’s recent checks. Tom practices Dickie’s signature, then sends a signed letter and signature card to the New York trust company, and a similar letter to the bank in Naples, assuring them that he himself, Dickie Greenleaf, has signed the checks, and is happy to comply with any of either bank’s further needs.
Tom’s expert copies of Dickie’s signatures are not what they appeared to be, and they serve as a metaphor for Tom’s inability to ever fully inhabit Dickie, as hard as he might try and as far as he may go.
Themes
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Wealth, Luxury, and Excess Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
Tom’s desire to go to Capri has “vanished,” and he walks aimlessly through the streets of Palermo. He purchases a “gloomy” painting of “two bearded saints descending a dark hill in moonlight” without haggling the price and brings it back to his hotel.
Tom purchases the ugly painting—a “gloomy” object in stark contrast to Dickie’s gleaming possessions—as a purposefully wasteful and destructive act, since he fears his funds are about to be cut off.
Themes
Wealth, Luxury, and Excess Theme Icon