Tom writes a letter to Herbert stating that he “feels Dickie may have killed himself.” He receives a letter from Marge—who is in Munich—declining a previous invitation to visit Venice, and stating that she “does not agree with Tom at all that Dickie might have committed suicide.”
By planting the idea of Dickie’s suicide in Herbert and Marge’s head, Tom hopes to take the spotlight off of himself and create the appearance of a disturbed, hopeless Dickie—a lost cause whose disappearance isn’t worth investigating further.
Dickie’s disappearance—and possible death—is still frequently referenced in the papers, and the police continue to “comb” Rome, Naples, and Paris for any sign of Dickie. One paper also features a small write-up of Tom, describing him as a “young well-to-do American who lives in a palazzo in Venice.” Though Tom has never thought of his new apartment as a “palace,” he does admire its beauty and amenities—Tom has a garden, servants (an Italian couple named Anna and Ugo) and a luxurious bedroom.
Tom continues to live an unearned life of luxury and excess, and he is thrilled by the success of having created the appearance of having wealth, an image that exists as a reality in the minds of the press and the public. He is settling into his “new” identity as Tom Ripley, a version of himself who attracts attention and interest.
Tom feels self-confident as of late; so confident, in fact, that he has composed Dickie’s “will,” and signed it in Dickie’s hand. He places the will in a pocket of his suitcase.
Tom’s confidence in his identity directly correlates with how far he will push the risk of losing it all.
The papers feature a small story about Dickie’s bank letters, revealing that they believe the perpetrator of Dickie’s murder must have been close enough to him to have access to those letters. This piece of news gives Tom “the feeling that he is being followed.”
Tom attends a few parties, though he is “not at all in the mood.” He visits the house of Contessa, Roberta (Titi) della Latta-Cacciaguerra. At each party, people ask him incessantly about Dickie—whether he was in love with Marge, and what could possibly have happened to him.
Tom is now a figure of intrigue, a role that excites and occupies him. His appearance and the reality behind that appearance are completely disjointed, but he is successful in hiding that chasm.
Each day, Tom awaits a letter from Marge or Herbert—he feels prepared to see them both and to answer any questions they might ask him. He longs to take a trip to Greece, but he doesn’t want to leave Venice until “something happens.”
His confidence at a fever pitch, Tom feels ready to take on anything that Marge, Herbert, or anyone might throw his way—again, Tom is excited by risk.
One day in early April, Tom receives a call from Marge. She is at the railway station in Venice; Herbert is behind in Rome. When she arrives, she tells Tom of how she’s been helping Herbert to question people in Rome and in Mongibello. Though Marge irritates Tom, he “puts on a big act” and shows her as much affection as he can muster. Over lunch, Marge “quizzes Tom more acutely than any police officer” as to Dickie’s state of mind the last time they saw each other, and she begs Tom to tell her how Dickie really felt about her. Tom tells Marge that though Dickie cared for her, he only wanted a “casual relationship” with her. Marge spills her martini on the table, and Tom is filled with a sudden hatred of her, remembering “her bra hanging over the windowsill in Mongibello,” and dreading the fact that “her underwear will be draped over his chairs tonight if he invites her to stay.” Nevertheless, he asks her if she’ll spend the night, but he dreads “the long Italian evening ahead of them.”
Though Tom dislikes Marge, he welcomes her affectionately and warmly in the name of keeping up appearances, even when she “quizzes” him and forces him to spin new stories. Soon, though, his capacity for deception wears thin, and he is reminded of his disdain for her and all that she represents—femininity, competition, and her having been born into a life that Tom felt he deserved. His instincts toward hatred are eventually outweighed by his need to appear kindly in order to continue the charade of the “new” Tom Ripley.