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Persistent Language

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

I picked up The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith to fulfill the Reading Women challenge #11, read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation. This novel, published in 1952, was adapted for film in 2015 with the title Carol. I’m only on page 60, and I can’t yet tell how the book got its title, though the movie title clearly comes from the name of a character. I’m curious to understand how choosing a book or movie title would be different back then compared to now.

The language throughout the book seems a bit old-fashioned, too, requiring me to get acclimated. I don’t travel through the sentences with ease, and I have to pay close attention to pick up subtext. But sometimes I still wonder, is this character behaving unusually or do her actions just harken back to out-of-date conventions?

The story begins in mid-December with Therese at a seasonal job in a department store called Frankenberg, although she really wants to find an apprenticeship in theater set design. Soon we meet Therese’s adoring boyfriend who wants to treat her to a trip to Europe and marry her. However, she doesn’t feel the same love toward him, though she can’t explain why. In both work and love Therese is stuck. While Frankenberg is a stopgap until an opportunity in theater arises, the position proves fortuitous for Therese as it brings Carol to Therese’s department to buy a Christmas present. Captivated by Carol’s beauty, Therese boldly sends her number to Carol in a letter using her address from the doll order.

I’ll have to keep reading to find out what happens next… but in the meantime, here are two new-to-me words that caught my eye. 


“‘Sister Alicia,’ Therese whispered carefully, the sibilant syllables comforting her” (3). 

Adjective: making or characterized by a hissing sound.

The sibilant sounds of hushed speech nevertheless carried across the otherwise silent room. 


“Mrs. Robichek pressed a black velvet dress upon Therese with trembling and importunate hands, and Therese suddenly knew how she would wait on people in the store, thrusting sweaters upon them helter skelter, for she could not have performed the action in any other way” (10). 

Adjective: persistent, especially to the point of annoyance or intrusion.

The importunate child tapped his mother’s arm while saying “mom” repeatedly, trying to steal her attention away from her phone call, impatient to show off his drawing. 

Make your own sentences using today’s words, and share in the comments! 



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