A letter arrives for Dickie, “urgently” requesting that he come to Rome to answer some questions concerning Tom Ripley. Tom plans to return to Italy as himself, buy a secondhand car somewhere far from Rome, and tell the authorities that he’s been roaming Italy for several months, unaware of the search for Tom Ripley. He “hates” becoming Tom Ripley again, and hates to have to abandon all of Dickie’s fine possessions.
Though it is difficult for Tom Ripley—emotionally and practically—to return to life as himself, he knows that it is what he must do in order to survive. He has luxuriated in putting on the appearance of being Dickie, and has pushed himself so far as to believe it could be his reality.
The next morning, Tom wakes seized by the an idea: he will check all of Dickie’s belongings at the American Express under a different name once he returns to Italy, and claim them at some time in the future. He packs up Dickie’s trunks, scrapes the initials off, and sends them ahead to Venice. The only thing he keeps of Dickie’s are his rings.
Tom, obsessed with preserving his stake in Dickie’s wealth and possessions, squirrels them away for himself. He keeps the rings with him, as they are small nuggets of all that Dickie represents to him, and he wants to keep them close.
Tom takes a train through Italy to a small town, Trento, and buys a car. There is nothing in the papers about Tom Ripley, Freddie Miles, or the discovery of the boat in San Remo. He marks up a guidebook and breaks it in in order to help corroborate his own story, and he spends a night sleeping in his car before heading to Venice and booking a room in a nondescript hotel.
Tom makes sure that every detail of his story looks right, even spending a night in his car in order to have a small nugget of truth on which he can base his lie. Tom is careful with appearances, and he can easily convince himself that appearance and reality equate with one another.
Tom goes out to dinner, purchasing the evening news on his way. On the second page of one of the papers, a headline describes the search for Dickie Greenleaf, who is missing after a “Sicilian holiday.” Tom considers “playing himself up a little more” when he presents himself to the authorities, just in case the policemen he speaks to are the same ones who’d interrogated him as Dickie. He decides to bide his time and wait until a few more items related to Dickie’s disappearance appear in the newspaper, so as not to appear suspicious.
Once unsure of his identity and only able to sponge off others to determine who he was, Tom Ripley now feels that he is confident enough in his imagined image that he can “play himself up” and do a successful imitation of who others have perceived him to be.