Study Guide

The Price of Salt, or Carol Family

By Patricia Highsmith


Family sitcoms were a hit in the 1950s. Leave it to Beaver. I Love Lucy. Father Knows Best. Everyone was just so dang normal. But the characters in The Price of Salt exist outside the norm in almost every aspect of society. Therese comes from a broken family and Carol doesn't seem to care much for her own. Hmm, things were so dysfunctional in the book's presentation of the 1950s that we're beginning to suspect these perfect TV shows were super fictional. No one was like that at all, were they?

Questions About Family

  1. We see two families over the course of the novel: Carol's and Richard's. How are they different? How are they similar? How do Carol and Richard feel about their respective families?
  2. What is Therese's family history? How does her family history affect her behavior?
  3. What will happen to Carol's family at the end of the novel? If Carol actually had a choice between her family and Therese, which would she choose?

Chew on This

In the 1950s, families are expected to be traditional units with a mother, father, and children. Therese's family is non-traditional, so she's more comfortable stepping outside the boundaries. Carol's family must be dissolved, though, before she makes a commitment to Therese.

Therese and Carol feel alienated with their own families, so they start a small family with each other.