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Last Updated on September 20, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 603

In Arthur Miller's 1968 play The Price, the characters are two bereft sons, Walter and Victor, who are selling their late father's furniture. The furniture salesman, Solomon, has offered the family one thousand dollars for their late family’s belongings. Victor has struck a tentative deal with Solomon, but his wife Esther and Walter think he ought to hold out for three times more money. 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. The audience learns that Victor and Esther stuck around to help Victor and Walter’s father when he was widowed. As a result of putting his life on hold for his father, Victor became locked into a career as a policeman. He had ambitions in the past, we discover, yet he sacrificed them for his father. Walter, on the other hand, did not help support his father hardly at all. He followed his ambitions to become a surgeon. 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 Walter and Victor 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: his wife has divorced him, and he had to go to a mental institution. At one point in the past, Victor had asked his now-successful brother for a loan of five hundred dollars to pursue his education. Even though Walter had the money, he denied his brother due to his suspicion that their father hid his true wealth from his sons. 

Victor is resigned to his position and understands that the proceeds from the furniture will be divided equally, though he could use the money much more than his brother. Esther, too, wishes that Victor would have fought harder for them to lead a more comfortable life. Victor is an honest man who believed that his father truly did lose his money. Walter suggests donating all of the furniture from their father’s assets so they can get a tax write-off. They would share the results of the donation. Victor is not on board with this idea: he has already struck a tentative deal with Solomon and would feel poorly about going back on his word. 

Victor considers the outcome of their family unit. Walter has been made miserable despite his financial gains: he lost his wife to divorce and his mental health has suffered greatly. Victor himself has given up the possibility of a life outside his father—he has been a policeman for twenty-eight years, though, and is unlikely to stray from this path. He considers the sacrifices they’ve made and wonders if, in the name of family, they were worth it at all. 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 are two halves of the same whole. Victor is uncertain about starting a new career this close to retirement—but then he thinks of Solomon. Solomon, at eighty-nine years old, will purchase the furniture from their father’s house and continue to make career moves. If Solomon can do that in his old age, surely Victor can pivot, too.

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