Fearless Murderers

Fearless Murderers

            In crime stories death is portrayed as a very ordinary event. In both the novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” by Patricia Highsmith and the short story “Born Bad,” by Andrew Vachss, gruesome murders are committed, yet readers may be unaffected by the brutality. Fear is not a factor in either text; both protagonists commit murders for power, both are completely amoral; feeling no guilt for their actions, as well as the form of the murderer is used to indicate “wants,” which allows the possibility for a reader to sympathise for the killer. Both “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Born Bad” portray death in different ways, but the protagonist share an equal uncaring attitude for their actions.

            It is evident that both the protagonists of “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Tom Ripley and Mark Anthony Munroe of “Born Bad,” kill for a sense of power. Munroe states “my only pleasure is power, and I learned early on that the ultimate power is to possess life. To extinguish it at my will.” (The Deadliest Games 127) This proves that Munroe is fearless of death, that he actually enjoys it and makes it part of his everyday life. Because of the ordinary nature in crime stories, a reader may not even be fazed by Munroe’s love for murder. The reader may actually be enticed by the viciousness and read on hoping for more. In contrast, Tom Ripley does not encompass an obsessive behaviour for death, but he willingly commits murders when it “presents itself as a reasonable means of securing his goal or preserving his freedom” (Horsley135) Ripley is a polished, pleasing and utterly amoral con artist who always gets away with his crimes, including the murders he commits. Ripley does not fear death itself, or the physical act of killing someone, but he does fear being caught. Not only do these characters commit these murders for power, but they do so with out any remorse.

            Tom Ripley and Mark Anthony Munroe do not feel any guilt for the murders they commit. Ripley can continue to live a “normal” life without an ounce of shame. Ripley’s amorality means he in no way endures a guilty mind-set or repents for taking away his best friend’s life. Ripley never feels ashamed around Marge, that he has killed her dearly loved friend. He never considers that he has hurt Herbert Greenleaf by destroying his only son. Tom’s lack of emotional response is an incredible benefit, because it means he can dedicate all his concentration and emotional energy to avoiding capture. When Tom does temporarily regret killing Freddie Miles, it is only because the death produces difficulties that ultimately lead to him abandoning the Dickie Greenleaf identity permanently. In comparison, Mark Anthony Munroe not only does not feel guilt for the murders he commits, but he actually enjoys it. Munroe declares “my rituals are for my own making, designed for my pleasure,” (The Deadliest Games 128) this proves that he does not feel any remorse whatsoever.

            Both Tom Ripley and Mark Anthony Munroe use murder to indicate to the reader their “wants.” One may think that the murderer of the story would be the one that the reader would despise and not root for, but in a crime story the contrary is true. A reader may be hopeful that the murder gets away with their crimes because they have learned that these crimes are committed to reach a goal that the main character has. This is extremely evident in “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” The complete plot of the story is Ripley’s obsession with Dickie Greenleaf. Blonde, charming, confident and wealthy, Dickie Greenleaf is everything Tom Ripley would like to be. Tom, an orphan, was raised by his aunt in a very cold environment which caused him to resent himself and be unhappy with himself. Tom believed that what he wanted in life was to be Dickie Greenleaf, so he took his life and impersonated him as long as he could without being caught. Sympathy is given by the reader because they empathize with Tom after learning about his tough life and are less judgmental of the murders committed because they are done to obtain the goals of Tom.

            Crime stories will and always have involved murder, it is depicted as an ordinary situation causing a reader to be untouched emotionally by the brutal acts. In both “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” by Patricia Highsmith and the short story “Born Bad,” by Andrew Vachss, fear is not an issue for either of the main characters.  Both protagonists kill for power, both are entirely unethical; unable to feel shame, as well as the form of the killer is used to indicate the “wants” that the character has. Desensitization to murder will continue in crime stories for as long as they exist.