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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 230

In Arthur Miller's 1968 play, The Price, the characters are two bereft sons, Walter (a surgeon) and Victor (a police officer), who are selling their late father's furniture to one Solomon, who is a secondhand furniture vendor. As in Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949), this play focuses on family...

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In Arthur Miller's 1968 play, The Price, the characters are two bereft sons, Walter (a surgeon) and Victor (a police officer), who are selling their late father's furniture to one Solomon, who is a secondhand furniture vendor. As in Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949), this play focuses on family drama. In The Price, the furniture salesman is caught amid the family quarrel of Victor, his wife Esther, and his brother, Walter.

The play takes place in a dialogue of a single scene. Esther and Walter are convinced that their late father, who had been successful but then lost much of his wealth in the Great Depression, is hiding money from his family. Walter is bitter that the father's monetary loss prevented him from assisting his sons in attending college. Walter managed to pay his own way and become a surgeon. Nevertheless, he is unhappy at the time of the play's setting, as his wife as divorced him, and he had to go to a mental institution.

Victor is resigned to his position, and understands that the proceeds from the furniture be divided equally, though he could use the money much more than his brother. By the play's end, Walter offers his well-meaning and honest brother a job as a hospital assistant, recognizing that, despite their different circumstances, they are from the same family, and so two halves of the same whole.

Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 522

The Price involves two brothers, Victor and Walter, and focuses on the distribution of their dead parents’ belongings, all housed in a ten-room brownstone. The secondhand furniture broker, Solomon, has offered a thousand dollars for these belongings, and Victor has reached a tentative agreement with him, although his wife and brother both urge him to hold out for three times the amount offered.

The play involves family secrets and duplicity. The brothers’ father, who had been reasonably prosperous, suffered the fate of many during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and was reduced to living at a bare subsistence level. He made his sons realize that he did not have the wherewithal to send them to college. Victor accepted his fathers’ penury at face value, but Walter, who suspected that his father had squirreled away some money to increase his own sense of security, struggled to continue his education, eventually becoming a surgeon. Victor, meanwhile, became a police officer and, during the action of the play, has served on the police force for twenty-eight years.

As Walter’s fortunes increased, Victor at one point approached his brother, requesting a five-hundred-dollar loan so that he could continue his education. Walter, however, although he was easily able to spare the money, would not make the loan because of his suspicion, which proved to be quite accurate, that their father was hiding money from his sons.

Victor was always loyal to his father, even though his wife, Esther, wished that he might be slightly less loyal and might do something that would enable the two of them to lead more comfortable existences. Victor, who is scrupulously honest, could certainly use the money from the sale of his father’s assets, but he insists that the proceeds be shared equally with Walter, who has little need for them. Indeed, Walter suggests that the brothers simply donate their father’s effects to the Salvation Army in his name so that he might take a tax write-off that he would share with Victor. Victor, however, feels that he has made a commitment to Solomon and that he must honor that commitment.

Walter’s monetary success has done little to provide him with a happy life. He suffered a nervous collapse and had to be confined to a mental institution for some time. His wife has divorced him. Nevertheless, Victor begins to question whether his family’s life was worth the sacrifices he made to sustain it when Walter defected from his father’s house.

Walter offers Victor, soon to retire, a job as a hospital administrator. Victor wonders if he is too old to embark on a new career, but then he thinks of the eighty-nine-year-old Solomon, who, in buying out the estate of the brothers’ father for a thousand dollars, is setting himself up in a new furniture venture. As the play ends, Walter has come to view himself and Victor as two halves of the same person. Raised in the same household, they were forced to invent their identities when their father suffered business reverses. A bifurcation took place as each went in his own direction.

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