Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Price dramatizes two sides of a dilemma: to sacrifice ambitions and desires for a loved one and then lose oneself, or to not make the sacrifice, in which case one must struggle with feelings of guilt. Victor chose the first route, while Walter chose the second. Thus, Victor sacrificed his ambition, his desire to become a scientist, in order to help his father, and the result is that he is trapped in a job he despises and he feels lost, unable to make a decision about retirement and a new career. Walter, who fled his responsibility to a father crushed by the stock market crash of 1929, pursued a successful career as a doctor but is now tormented by guilt, so much so that he attempts to bribe Victor to alleviate it. At the end of the play, when Walter comments that he will not allow Victor to make him feel guilty again, it is clear that Walter actually has been tormenting himself.

Each brother envies the other. Victor envies Walter’s successful career, while Walter envies Victor’s generous spirit. Neither man, however, can return to his original choice and undo it. Victor understands this finality by the end of the play, while Walter is still trying to erase the years, his responsibility to his father, and his guilt. Gregory Solomon, whose wisdom lives up to his name, understands the problem with time and the irrevocability of past choices. He describes a recurring memory of a daughter who committed suicide. If he could talk to her again,...

(The entire section is 426 words.)