The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Motorboat Symbol Icon

As Tom’s presence in Mongibello becomes more and more unwelcome and the emotional chasm between him and Dickie grows larger and deeper, Tom grows increasingly desperate to endear himself to Dickie, and this desperation leads him to kill Dickie on a trip to San Remo. While exploring the city, Tom suggests the two take a boat out around the port. Out on the water, Tom takes up the boat’s lone oar and, with it, bludgeons Dickie to death. He then strips Dickie of his possessions, binds Dickie with rope, and uses a cement weight to drag Dickie’s body to the bottom of the sea. Tom steers the bloodstained boat to a secluded shore and fills it with stones, then pushes it out “toward deeper water.” However, the boat resurfaces and the authorities find it, leading to a manhunt for Dickie and questions about Tom’s own whereabouts and identity. The boat, then, is a symbol for the inevitability of the truth, and the past’s tendency to haunt the present. Though Tom feels little remorse for (or even emotion about) his actions, he is nonetheless dogged by the fear of having each of his lies fall down around him and thereby being discovered for what he is. The bloodstained boat’s resurfacing represents the resilience of truth, even against such a worthy opponent as the talented Mr. Ripley. The boat’s significance is even more magnified when taking into account the fervor with which Dickie tried to escape inheriting his father’s shipbuilding business—a business which specializes in small sailing ships. Dickie’s end comes in a boat, though it was his father’s lifelong involvement with boats—and his attempt to foist that involvement on Dickie—that Dickie so desperately wanted to leave behind.

The Motorboat Quotes in The Talented Mr. Ripley

The The Talented Mr. Ripley quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Motorboat. 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 17 Quotes

Tom saw Dickie smiling at him, dressed in the corduroy suit that he had worn in San Remo. The suit was soaking wet, the tie a dripping string. Dickie bent over him, shaking him. “I swam!” he said. “Tom, wake up! I’m all right! I swam! I’m alive!” Tom squirmed away from his touch. He heard Dickie laugh at him, Dickie’s happy, deep laugh. “Tom!” The timbre of the voice was deeper, richer, better than Tom had even been able to make it in his imitations. “I swam!” Dickie’s voice shouted, ringing and ringing in Tom’s ears as if he heard it through a long tunnel.

Related Characters: Tom Ripley (speaker), Richard “Dickie” Greenleaf (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Motorboat
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Motorboat Symbol Timeline in The Talented Mr. Ripley

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Motorboat appears in The Talented Mr. Ripley. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Escapes Theme Icon
In San Remo, Tom suggests that the two of them take a boat out into the bay. Dickie agrees, and they rent a boat and set off. Though... (full context)
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Wealth, Luxury, and Excess Theme Icon
Dickie slows the boat’s motor so that Tom can jump in for a swim, and, when he does, Tom... (full context)
Escapes Theme Icon
While attempting to sink Dickie’s body, Tom accidentally starts the boat’s motor and falls into the water. He panics, but manages to reach up and shut... (full context)
Chapter 13
Wealth, Luxury, and Excess Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
Tom searches the Neapolitan newspapers for anything about a bloodstained boat having been found, but there is nothing in the papers. He finds solace in remembering... (full context)
Chapter 17
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Wealth, Luxury, and Excess Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
...of the last newspaper he finds a small headline describing the discovery of a possibly-bloodstained boat near San Remo. (full context)
Chapter 21
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
Escapes Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 27
Obsession, Identity, and Imitation Theme Icon
Wealth, Luxury, and Excess Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality  Theme Icon
...Tom sit in the coffee bar, and McCarron asks Tom to describe “the San Remo boat in detail.” He also asks Tom to describe Dickie’s personality, to elaborate on Dickie’s relationship... (full context)