The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Price begins with Victor Franz’s entrance into a room crowded with old furniture that is ugly but impressive. A nice-looking uniformed police sergeant, Victor steps meditatively, gazing at his deceased parents’ furniture; various pieces attract him, before the phonograph draws him and he puts on a “laughing record.” Two comedians’ attempts to utter a sentence are interrupted by gales of laughter, and Victor himself chuckles and then begins to laugh hard.

Esther, his wife, enters, hears the laughter, and thinks that a party is occurring, and Victor worries that she has been drinking. While both wait for a furniture dealer, Victor tells her about his brother’s refusal to take his calls regarding the furniture sale, and Esther cautions him to bargain with the appraiser. Money and class are important to Esther; she is upset about going to a film with Victor in uniform rather than a suit. Victor wonders whether the cause of her unhappiness is the departure of their son, Richard, to college. Esther does not deny this possible cause, but additional matters bother her, such as the absence of communication between Victor and his brother, Walter, and, more important, Victor’s failure to retire from the force, return to college, and pursue the scientific career he had desired as a young man. Victor’s indecision bewilders Esther, who all but calls him a failure. Before going to pick up his suit at the cleaners, however, she tries to cheer her husband by asking to see a fencing move (she has noticed his foil and mask).

As Victor playfully lunges at Esther with the foil, the furniture dealer, Gregory Solomon, enters. The courtly Russian Jew is nearly ninety and walks with a cane but is straight backed. To show her confidence in Victor, whose feelings she has hurt, Esther goes to pick up his suit and leaves the men to bargain. Solomon is pleased by the harp and several other pieces and would like to purchase them individually, but Victor insists that everything must be sold because the building is scheduled for demolition.

Believing that no deal can be made without trust, Solomon tries to win Victor’s confidence, telling him stories about his varied past. Victor is suspicious and impatient, wanting only a price, and the old man is so upset that he rises to leave several times. Victor, Solomon says, must have used an old telephone book to contact him, since he had cleaned out his store two years earlier. Having overcome his fear that he will not live to finish selling the furniture, Solomon...

(The entire section is 1042 words.)