Ripley: Is Greenleaf Ship Builders an Actual Company?

Things take a tragic turn for the Greenleaf family when one wrong decision upends everything for them. All Herbert Greenleaf wanted was for his son, Dickie, to come back home. When all else failed, he got so desperate that he reached out to Tom Ripley, whom he’d only heard of from Dickie’s friends, and thought that he was the best option to change Dickie’s mind about being in Italy. Little did Mr. Greenleaf know that Tom Ripley was a conman ready to go to any lengths to get what he wanted.

With all that happens in the story, it makes one wonder how someone like Mr. Greenleaf, who owns a huge business, could take such an ill-informed step. Is he based on a real person or concocted by the writers? Is his business, Greenleaf Ship Builders, based on a real ship-building company in New York? SPOILERS AHEAD

Greenleaf Ship Builders is a Fictional Family Business in Ripley

‘Ripley’ is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel, ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,’ which is an original story that the author came up with while vacationing in Positano on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. She used the coastal city as the location for her story, though she changed the name of the place in the book to Mongibello and created fictional characters to suit the purpose of the plot.

The idea started with the author thinking about a man hired to go to Italy to bring a wealthy man’s son back home. While creating Ripley, she tapped into her own psyche. She didn’t refer to any real-life businessmen while coming up with the Greenleaf family and their business. However, Highsmith was known to have walked in the high society circles of New York and, hence, would have been intimate with the workings of a family like the Greenleafs.

It is unclear why she chose the ship-building business for the Greenleafs, but one cannot deny that it is a lucrative business and would explain the riches of the family rather well, especially with the story set in the 50s and 60s. At the time, travel by ship was commonplace until it was replaced by the increasing popularity and affordability of air travel.

In some ways, the Greenleaf family’s ship-building falls in line with the general tone of the story. A lot of it has to do with boats, with one of the most important scenes in the story set in the middle of the ocean on a boat. Though Dickie has no interest in making boats, he does love to be on one. In Atrani (Mongibello in the book), he owns a boat, one of his most beloved possessions. He spends a lot of time on it, and it is a mark of his love for the Italian city and his unwillingness to leave it. Later, when Tom Ripley sells the boat, it marks the end of Dickie’s story for good, as the selling of the boat suggests that Dickie has finally left the place for good.

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