The Presentation of Violence in the Talented Mr. Ripley


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Nagy illuminates Tom’s dark side with the protagonist attacking verbally Freddie and offending him even after killing him. Tom’s verbal attack against Freddie progressively culminates with Tom expressing his discredit for him shouting at his dead body “look. What did you make me do. What. What” while kicking him. His initial reaction suggests the character’s anger and his rejection of the responsibility of Freddie’s murder. The dramatic character seems unable to regulate himself. This becomes evident when the character starts to kick uncontrollably Freddie’s body turning into frenetic while shouting “stupid stupid stupid bastard want to wish to need to ruin things for me but no no no no it’s not to be it’s not your place it’s your own damned stupid stupid fault you end up dead and I never never never never lose my temper never make me never tell me what to”. The use of unfinished utterances instead of complete sentences reflects his tense emotional condition.

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The playwright chooses to highlight his destructive behavior through his speech. Contrary to the first murder, Tom exposes his frustration and negative feelings. The first murder seems to be a conscious choice which aims to bring Tom closer to his purpose. The second murder further promotes Tom’s determination to hide his traces, but its position in the evolution of the plot enhances the spectators’ understanding of Tom. The protagonist seems incapable of controlling his aggression against Freddie, since he questions Tom’s abilities. Freddie sounds surprised and skeptical when Tom reveals he killed Richard. This reaction triggers the protagonist to prove his abilities and kill him. In this way, Nagy molds Tom’s personality directly influenced by the interactions he has with others. Thus, the playwright attempts to frame the protagonist’s aggression in order to provide the spectators with multiple inputs about Tom’s character.

After his exhaustion, Tom tries to avoid the result of his frenetic condition. Nagy points out that “he shuts his eyes as if to rid himself of the body” as he monologues that “he doesn’t want to see. He mustn’t see”. At this point, the main character probably realizes his crime and attempts to displace the result of his action. As Sigmund Freud observes about defense mechanisms, “on the one hand, with the help of certain mechanisms he rejects reality and refuses to accept any prohibition; on the other hand, in the same breach he recognizes the danger of reality, takes over fear of that danger as a pathological symptom and tries subsequently to divest himself of that fear”. The scene divulges the main character’s psychological turmoil with Tom initially enjoying his attack on Freddie’s body, but later trying to avoid the consequences of his action. As in the construction of the first murder, the playwright does not visualize the protagonist’s steps to dispose the body, since a graphic presentation of the body’s disposal would move the spectators’ attention from Tom’s psychological condition to the arousal of emotions connected to the exclusive display of violence. To avoid this, Nagy chooses to utilize the lighting technique with the focal emphasis of the body during Tom’s frenetic condition shifting to Tom and resolving the body’s disappearance from stage. Apart from reminding his lethal action, Freddie’s body signals the visualization and externalization of the protagonist’s aggressive inner world which he tries to elude from. This is the reason that when the body disappears Tom starts to calm himself repeating “good. That’s … good. Come … on … Breathe. Breathe”. His efforts to tranquilize himself are accompanied by the “peaceful sound of the gulls and gentle waves and ship bells which] fill the air”. The particular sound effects reinforce the atmosphere and contribute to the demonstration of the character’s psychological condition at that specific moment and transfer this condition to the spectators. Therefore, Nagy utilizes sound and light to project Tom’s condition after Freddie’s murder and highlight his attempt to vanish the results of his action.

The presentation of violence in The Talented Mr. Ripley offers an opportunity for understanding the performativity of violence and problematizes the factors contributing to an aggressive individual who does not hesitate to kill. I have come to realize that the portrayal of violence in this theatrical adaptation endeavors to capture the psychological implications of the individual’s crisis resulting from the sociopolitical climate of their time. Written and performed in the postmodern era, the writer attempts to illustrate the recurrent theme of violence with the neo capitalist ideology pushing the protagonist to his psychological suffocation and leading him to commit murder.

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