Study Guide

The Price of Salt, or Carol Society and Class

By Patricia Highsmith

Society and Class

Perhaps the drive to conform, which we talk about in the theme of "Identity," came from the growing differences in the U.S. in the 1950s. After World War II, there was economic prosperity—but only for some groups of people. Society was starting to become more segmented and fractured.

In The Price of Salt, homosexuality and society's attitude toward it are part of almost every aspect of the book. But it isn't everything. The book also deals with economic class differences, because Therese is young and poor, and Carol is older and has a lot of disposable income. Class differences, as it turns out, just might be the hardest to overcome.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. What's the role for women in society in 1950? How does Therese break societal expectations as the book progresses?
  2. Therese and Carol come from different economic backgrounds. How do their class differences make them behave differently?
  3. Aside from Richard and Harge, how is Carol and Therese's relationship viewed by society as a whole? Is that aspect of their relationship ever explored? How does this affect the book?

Chew on This

Both Richard and Harge expect their significant others to conform to societal norms, but these norms benefit only the men. The women want something else out of life.

At the end of the novel, Therese and Carol are on more equal footing economically, so Therese feels more comfortable entering a relationship with Carol.