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
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.