Patricia Highsmith's work reveals the life of a 1950s vagabond. A Tom Ripley who lives in New York and has known high society circles but never belonged to them. Tom is gay and holds no bank account despite receiving checks from his job as an accountant. Perhaps this is because he doesn't want the police to know where he lives. Though he does cash checks from his aunt, who raised him and who he has always hated. He goes from job to job and from one situation to another until he is scouted out by a Mr. Greenleaf, a shipping industrialist, who wants Tom to go to Italy and convince his son, Dickie, to come back to America. Mrs. Greenleaf is ill with cancer and both parents want their son home immediately.
Tom knows right away that there is no particular reason for why Dickie would want to give up his house, girlfriend, maid and painting hobby in Mongibello Italy to come back to starched shirts and crammed traffic in New York. Tom knows Dickie from parties, and the details are vague as to how he came to these parties. But Tom is the only one of Dickie's aquaintances or friends who agrees to go as all the others considered doing so to be meddling in Dickie's life.
When he arrives, he scouts Dickie with his girlfriend, Marge, on the beach. Tom makes an awkward third wheel as Marge and Dickie get to know each other. But Tom does not care about this. He knows that he is not going back to a shiftless existence in New York. And so when he and Dickie go on a boating trip together only one of them comes back to shore. And the new Dickie Greenleaf is born.
By Sarah Bahl