Glass Ashtray In Netflix’s ‘Ripley,’ Explained: Did Tom Buy A New One In Venice?


To understand Tom Ripley better, we have to first put ourselves in his shoes. A failed artist is trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Tom was orphaned as a child, which means he didn’t really have the best childhood. Needless to say, he didn’t get the best upbringing from one of the meanest creatures in the world, his aunt Dottie. In the book, Tom wanted to be an actor, but showbiz is a risky business. However, in Dickie Greenleaf, Tom found a portal to an entirely different world. Once smitten by wonderland, Tom didn’t want to leave it. Tom was enchanted by the Greenleafs’ wealth and envied their lifestyle. He wanted it all for himself. [Spoiler Alert] It was Freddie Miles who first found out about Tom’s identity scam, as he had been living a lavish life in Rome under Dickie’s name. Tom not only wore Dickie’s clothes and shoes to look and feel important but also encashed the allowance checks to live a comfortable life. However, the strange encounter with Freddie became a threat to Tom’s fantasy world, and therefore, to save his house of cards, Tom struck a fatal blow on Freddie’s head with the hardest object in his reach. Apparently, it was a hard-glass ashtray that was now dripping with Freddie’s blood. But even though that ashtray killed a man in front of us, the glass didn’t have a single scratch, just like Tom’s conscience. He may not be proud of his actions, but he wasn’t guilty either.

A first-time killer, or a person who has killed someone accidentally, will instinctively try to get rid of the murder weapon to save their soul. But not Tom Ripley. Mind you, it wasn’t his first murder either. By now, Tom had become a psychotic killer who enjoyed the thrill of taking a life to save his own fantasy world. Additionally, Tom liked the entire process of hiding the body and lying to the police during an investigation. In the entire process, Tom felt like an artist. Through his art, he was able to deceive the wittiest of the police officers, and Tom took pride in his work. His pride manifested as the smirk on his face when Inspector Pietro Ravini used the same glass ashtray while questioning Tom about Freddie’s murder. For Tom, the ashtray had become his artistic instrument. He cherished it like a painter cherishes their brush or a writer admires their pen. For Tom Ripley, one’s social class and economic status were reflected in these ordinary day-to-day things. Like the pen he used to fill those hotel registers or Dickie’s ring that he held dear. Tom wouldn’t miss an opportunity to flaunt his souvenirs, and it made him feel validated when people complimented him.

Tom’s artistic inspiration, Caravaggio, had done a similar thing (or maybe it was what Tom imagined). After killing Ranuccio, Caravaggio kept that blood-stained dagger close. It was a part of his artistic expression that eventually inspired his paintings. That’s why Tom purchased a similar ashtray when he relocated to Venice. The ashtray reminded Tom Ripley of his past glory and of a milestone in his career. To bring a life into this world, or to end one, is often considered a godly act. And Tom Ripley was proud of his actions.

For Tom, the ashtray was a reminder of the fact that he had committed the perfect crime and gotten away with murder. It gave him the confidence to try his luck once again, and therefore he didn’t mind picking up a similar ashtray to attack Marge Sherwood when she found Dickie’s ring in Tom’s Venice Mansion. Tom wouldn’t have minded smashing Marge’s brain out; the man hated her already. However, things turned out in his favor when Marge perceived the entire incident differently and didn’t suspect Tom of murdering Dickie. 

Matt Damon’s Ripley was a psychopath, but Andrew Scott’s portrayal of the same characters plays it safe. Even though Scott’s Tom walks on the center of the moral line (just for the thrills), he tries to keep himself on the safer side and protect himself from all perils. It could be better understood from the fact that Tom purchased a similar-looking glass ashtray and did not take the one in the Rome apartment. And while Damon’s Ripley kept on murdering people because of his fear and insecurities, Scott’s Tom got himself a new identity as Timothy Fanshaw. For Tom, every new identity was a new canvas to paint on. Fill it with new adventures, new crimes, or maybe even new murders.

At the end of Netflix’s Ripley, Tom kept the glass ashtray close, like Caravaggio had kept his dagger by his side, while both of them cherished the beautiful painting in front of them. The closing shot of the ashtray is a reminder that maybe Tom will lift his “brush” once again in the future. Maybe to strike another person who would awaken his demons. Artists usually keep on striving for that one masterpiece. And I believe that Tom’s masterpiece will come at the cost of some more lives.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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