The Dark Side of Adaptation

  • Thomas LeitchEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Adaptation and Visual Culture book series (PSADVC)


The plot of Highsmith’s novel The Blunderer (1954) offers a model of adaptation as compelling as it is perverse: adaptation as copycat murder. Beginning with an analysis of the way this analogy is developed in The Blunderer and its subsequent adaptations (Le meurtrier [Enough Rope] and A Kind of Murder), this chapter makes a case for maladaptation—criminal adaptation, unsuccessful adaptation, the calamitous refusal to adapt, and a fatal facility for adaptation—as the central subject of Highsmith’s fiction and traces some of the leading implications of the position that just as crime and love are metaphors for the adaptive impulse that runs throughout Highsmith’s fiction, adaptation itself may be considered both an act of love and a criminal act.

Works Cited

  1. Dirda, Michael. “This Woman Is Dangerous.” The New York Review of Books, 2 July 2009. 30 January 2018.
  2. Greene, Graham. “Introduction.” The Snail-Watcher and Other Stories. Ed. Patricia Highsmith. Garden City: Doubleday, 1970, xi–xiv.Google Scholar
  3. Harrison, Russell. Patricia Highsmith. New York: Twayne, 1997.Google Scholar
  4. Hilfer, Anthony Channell. “‘Not Really Such a Monster’: Highsmith’s Ripley as Thriller Protagonist and Protean Man.” Midwest Quarterly Journal of Contemporary Thought 25.4 (1984): 361–374.Google Scholar
  5. Hutcheon, Linda, and Siobhan O’Flynn. A Theory of Adaptation, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Klein, Kathleen Gregory. “Patricia Highsmith.” And Then There Were Nine …: More Women of Mystery. Ed. Jane S. Bakerman. Bowling Green: Popular Press, 1985, 170–197.Google Scholar
  7. Mawer, Noel Dorman. A Critical Study of the Fiction of Patricia Highsmith: From the Psychological to the Political. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 2004.Google Scholar
  8. Peary, Gerald. “Patricia Highsmith.” First pub. Sight and Sound 75.2 (1988). Gerald Peary: Film Reviews, Interviews, Essays, & Sundry Miscellany, 9 December 2016. 30 January 2018.
  9. Peters, Fiona. Anxiety and Evil in the Writings of Patricia Highsmith. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.Google Scholar
  10. Piepenbring, Dan. “A Dissatisfaction with Life.” Paris Review, 29 January 2015. 30 January 2018.
  11. Rafferty, Terence. “The Deep Secrets of the Gone Girl Era.” Atlantic 318.1 (July–August 2016): 100–109.Google Scholar
  12. Schenkar, Joan. The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  13. Schwanebeck, Wieland. “Mr. Ripley’s Renaissance: Notes on an Adaptable Character.” Adaptation 6.3 (2013): 355–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Stam, Robert. “Introduction: The Theory and Practice of Adaptation.” Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation. Eds. Robert Stam and Alessandra Raengo. Malden: Blackwell, 2005, 1–52.Google Scholar
  15. Symons, Julian. “Book Awards: Julian Symons’ 100 Best Crime and Mystery Books.” First Pub. The Sunday Times, 1957/1958. Library Thing, n.d. 30 January 2018.
  16. Talbot, Margaret. “Forbidden Love: The Passions Behind Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Price of Salt.’” The New Yorker, 30 November 2015. 30 January 2018.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DelawareNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations