Dickie Greenleaf is never without his rings, which are physical markers of his wealth, status, and vanity. Though the vast majority of Dickie’s clothes and accessories are Italian-made, his rings, Tom notes, are American—a daily reminder of the life and opportunities Dickie has purposefully left behind. The rings are so closely associated with Dickie’s being that it’s when Tom thinks of stealing Dickie’s rings that he realizes that he actually wants to kill Dickie, and once Dickie is dead Tom is careful to take the rings before sinking the body, since the rings are an integral part of Tom’s Dickie disguise. Dickie’s rings are symbolic of different things to different characters. To Dickie, they are reminders of the past he has gleefully escaped and the predetermined future he narrowly avoided. He wears the rings triumphantly and almost desperately, as a way of reassuring himself that he has dominion over his life and choices. To Tom, they are dual promises of wealth (the green ring) and security in one’s identity (the flashy gold signet ring). They remain, quite literally, just out of Tom’s grasp, until he seizes control of his desires and takes them for his own. To Marge, the rings represent the inevitability of her loss of Dickie, and the realization that he was never hers to begin with. Though she cared for him deeply, she was unable to save him from Tom’s dark pull. When she discovers Dickie’s rings in Tom’s possession, she buys Tom’s hurriedly-assembled story of how Dickie, in a moment of despair, bequeathed him the rings—“This practically settles it,” she says, resigning herself unquestioningly to the realization (a realization of Tom’s own making) that she never knew Dickie very well at all.
Dickie’s Rings Quotes in The Talented Mr. Ripley
Tom’s heart took a sudden leap. He put on an expression of reflection. It was a possibility. Something in him had smelled it out and leapt at it even before his brain. He wanted to leave New York. “I might,” he said carefully, with the same pondering expression, as if he were even now going over the thousands of little ties that could prevent him. Tom stared at the gold signet ring with the nearly worn-away crest on Mr. Greenleaf’s little finger. “I think I might.”
Tom sat opposite [Dickie], staring at his hands with the green ring and the gold signet ring. A crazy emotion of hate, of affection, of impatience and frustration was swelling in him. He wanted to kill Dickie. It was not the first time he had thought of it. He had failed with Dickie, in every way. He hated Dickie. He had offered Dickie friendship, companionship, everything he had to offer, and Dickie had replied with ingratitude and now hostility. If he killed him on this trip, he could simply say that some accident had happened. He could—He had just thought of something brilliant: he could become Dickie Greenleaf. The danger of it, even the inevitable temporariness of it, only made him more enthusiastic. He began to think of how.
What had he said about risks? Risks were what made the whole thing fun. [And] anticipation! It occurred to him that his anticipation was more pleasant to him than his experiencing. Was it always going to be like that? When he spent evenings alone, handling Dickie’s possessions, simply looking at his rings on his own fingers, or his woolen ties, or his black alligator wallet, was that experiencing or anticipation?