Study Guide

The Price of Salt, or Carol Identity

By Patricia Highsmith


When you think of a society where everyone is expected to conform—or else—you might think of some place like modern-day North Korea. But the United States in the 1950s was close. People wanted to achieve a so-called American Dream, as depicted on TV shows with perfect families like Leave it to Beaver. (Source.)

But who isn't included in the American Dream? Minorities, mostly—poor people, LGBTQ people, people of color… In short, a lot of people. In The Price of Salt, Therese and Carol, as lesbians, are both trying to find out who they are and where they fit in. And they'll have to do it without the help of primetime entertainment since people like them aren't represented in mainstream media.

Questions About Identity

  1. How does Therese change over the course of the novel? Or does she change at all?
  2. What do Carol and Therese have in common? What does Carol see in Therese?
  3. What does Therese learn about herself during the road trip that she never would have learned had she stayed home?

Chew on This

Over the course of the novel, Therese becomes more sure of herself, and Carol becomes less sure of herself. The two women meet somewhere in the middle.

Therese seems lonely and depressed, but she learns that she isn't the problem—it's her situation. When she changes her situation, like she does when she leaves Richard for Carol, her mood improves.