The Talented Mr. Ripley


Patricia Highsmith

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Marge’s Underthings Symbol Analysis

Marge’s Underthings Symbol Icon

The first time he visits Marge Sherwood’s home in Mongibello, Tom Ripley feels threatened by “the feminine touch represented by her tomato-colored bathing suit and a bra hanging over a windowsill.” Later on in the novel, after Dickie’s “disappearance,” Marge reconnects with Tom in Venice. Partway through dinner, Tom “suddenly remember[s] her bra hanging over the windowsill in Mongibello,” and is repulsed. The idea of her underwear hanging over a chair in his own apartment disgusts him, but he invites her to stay anyway. Throughout her stay, several more references are made to Marge’s bras—she breaks a strap while out and about and, on the drunken walk home alongside Tom, she clutches at it “with one hand.” Marge’s unwelcome but persistent presence throughout the novel magnifies Tom’s disdain for anyone but himself and Dickie—especially his disdain for women, and for the heteronormative pull that Marge represents. Her underthings are a physical symbol of her raw, unfettered affection for Dickie, and for what Tom views as the weaponization of her femininity and sexuality against Tom himself.

Marge’s Underthings Quotes in The Talented Mr. Ripley

The The Talented Mr. Ripley quotes below all refer to the symbol of Marge’s Underthings. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of The Talented Mr. Ripley published in 2008.
Chapter 10 Quotes

He suddenly felt that Dickie was embracing her, or at least touching her, at this minute, and partly he wanted to see it, and partly he loathed the idea of seeing it. He turned and walked back to Marge’s gate. Tom stopped as Marge’s window came into view: Dickie’s arm was around her waist. Dickie was kissing her. Marge’s face was tipped up to Dickie’s, and what disgusted Tom was that he knew Dickie didn’t mean it. What disgusted him was the big bulge of her behind in the peasant skirt below Dickie’s arm that circled her waist. Tom turned away and ran down the steps, wanting to scream.

Related Symbols: Marge’s Underthings
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
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Marge’s Underthings Symbol Timeline in The Talented Mr. Ripley

The timeline below shows where the symbol Marge’s Underthings appears in The Talented Mr. Ripley. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon “sloppy” with a “messy” garden out front, and her red bathing suit and a bra are hanging out of a windowsill. Marge greets the two men, and Dickie urges Tom... (full context)
Chapter 13
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
Stepping off the bus in Mongibello, Tom immediately runs into Marge, dressed in her bathing suit . She asks where Dickie is, and Tom replies that Dickie has gone to Rome,... (full context)
Chapter 23
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 26
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Wealth, Luxury, and Excess Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
...Tom and Marge walk home from dinner together. Marge, giddy, laughs about having broken her bra strap, while Tom thinks about a letter he received earlier that afternoon from Bob Delancey.... (full context)