Study Guide

Mrs. Ruby Robichek in The Price of Salt, or Carol

By Patricia Highsmith

Mrs. Ruby Robichek

Red Velvet in that Weird Old Woman's Style

If you think your coworkers are weird, wait until you meet Mrs. Robichek. She invites her co-worker Therese over, makes her try on a red velvet dress, then practically forces her to stay the night.

Actually, it's Therese who is the weird coworker. Mrs. Robichek is lonely and desperate for human interaction. It's difficult to tell if she's a lesbian or not—she never mentions a Mr. Robichek—but she's always nice to Therese. In fact, she's nicer to Therese than either Carol or Abby ever are.

But Therese doesn't like Mrs. Robichek because she's ugly, and the lonely desperation just rolls off her like B.O. Therese describes her face as showing "ever-lasting exhaustion and terror" (1.14). Yikes. She may be u-g-l-y, but Mrs. Robichek has an alibi—she lost her dress shop and has to live in a rundown apartment and work a terrible retail job until she dies. That would take its toll on anyone.

Therese's immaturity really shows in the initial chapter, when she passively allows Mrs. Robichek to take her home and then just stands there like a mute until Mrs. Robichek thinks Therese is ill. Therese rudely sneaks out in the middle of the night and never talks to the poor woman again.

On the road trip, Therese sends Mrs. Robichek a great big honking sausage in the mail as way of apology. We won't comment on the innuendo of a lonely old woman getting a package full of sausage, but we will comment on how this shows us that Therese has matured. Good for you, Therese.