Study Guide

The Price of Salt, or Carol Dissatisfaction

By Patricia Highsmith


Everyone needs to find his or her place in the world, but it's harder to do so the more unique your tastes are. Football fans? They're a dime a dozen. People who like playing lacrosse while dressed up as their favorite Dr. Who character? They're few and far between. Okay, these folks are probably more common than we think, but the point is that it can get discouraging when you feel like you don't fit in, and you're in your Tardis all aloneā€¦ just you and your lacrosse stick.

In the 1950s, pre-Internet, it was really hard for non-conformists and social outcasts to find a place where you fit in. For lesbians like Carol and Therese in The Price of Salt, fitting in is only more difficult since their sexual identities require them to do everything on the DL. The world can be a sad and lonely place until you find a community.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. Why doesn't Therese like her department store job? Is the job the problem or is she the problem?
  2. Why is Carol dissatisfied with her marriage?
  3. Is Richard actually satisfied with his relationship with Therese? Why isn't he unhappy with her, when she clearly isn't into him?

Chew on This

Both Therese and Carol realize they must find satisfaction within. They can help each other be happy, but ultimately each woman must be in the relationship on her own terms.

There's a role reversal in the book. Therese is more satisfied at the end than she is at the beginning, yet Carol is definitely dissatisfied. She acts like she's okay losing her daughter, but given how hard she fights to keep custody, there's no way she really is.