Sold Sold by Patricia McCormick is a story of a tragic reality faced by many young girls around the world, specifically the reality of the protagonist.
Lakshmi is a innocent girl who is sold to a brothel because of her stepfather’s apathetic behavior, forcing his only daughter into prostitution to sustain their family. Through this experience Lakshmi learns that the world is not what it seems, taking an innocent girl and twisting her into a woman she is toward the end of the book. Through hardship, she realizes she lives in a world that is an everlasting nightmare. Although there is darkness, there is also atonement and freedom found in Lakshmi’s journey. Lakshmi sees the ugliness of the human soul, learning that the world is ultimately a dark place, with little place for redemption. Women are not seen as up to par with men, and this is noticed by the young protagonist, although she does not identify with this inequality. Lakshmi is still very much a child at this point of the book, her innocence covering her, a blanket of protection.
She notices this imbalance, one of the biggest examples her mother and stepfather. Lakshmi’s stepfather does nothing for the family, gambling away small earnings at the tea shop aways from their house. Lakshmi sees the exchange between her mother and stepfather concerning Lakshmi’s dowry. Lakshmi’s dowry is her inheritance, something that is valued and will be passed off from girl to girl in their family, something near and dear to her mother, as it will be to Lakshmi one day. Instead of the usual, “” Never.”..
. “Those are for Lakshmi. They are her dowry.”” she reacts in a much different manner, “today she hangs her head like the patty plants and says, “maybe tomorrow.”” (McCormick, 23) This exemplar of inequality blatantly states that women should give up everything they have or own to make sure everybody relies off of her sacrifices. Lakshmi’s mother feels obliged to do this because she knows that without this sacrifice, her husband will do nothing for her family, him leaving Lakshmi, her smaller brother and her mother to suffer, spending their small income from side jobs and farming. Lakshmi’s stepfather thinks in the exact opposite way, taking from his family to satisfy his apparent uncontrollable urge to gamble at the tea shop. There is an imbalance in how women are treated compared to men in Lakshmi’s small Nepalese village.
She discovers this when she overhears a conversation her father was having at the tea shop while gambling, reiterating what he said, that being, “a son will always be a son, they say. But a daughter is like a goat. Good as long as she gives you milk and butter. But not worth crying over when it is time to make stew.” (McCormick, 18) Males are deemed useful in a society that does not see women as equal to their male counterpart. This reveals the ugly truth, that women are not worth crying over when they are to subjected to a life of prostitution, death representing the selling of women, to essentially their death sentences. Lakshmi sees this injustice, regarding it but does not act upon it, merely questioning the practices in place, asking why women have to do through so much, her mother’s simple response being, “Simply to endure.
..is to triumph.” (McCormick, 16) as if that is a justification to what women have to endure from their significant others. Lakshmi sees all of the inequality as unfair, this society wanting women to live lives of submitting to their husband and his wishes, no more or no less. This is nonsensical to a degree to Lakshmi because she does not see why any women should be subjected to what her mother is subjected to, because she is still child-like, learning and observing around her. Lakshmi does not know everything just yet but she knows enough to know what a women is subjected to is not right whatsoever.
Lakshmi is forced to go to the city as a maid, her stepfather’s gambling putting her in this situation. She feels obliged to do this, due to his irresponsible and apathetic behavior, him not caring for anybody but himself. Lakshmi knows her family would starve with her stepfather spending their small earnings from side jobs and vegetation, thus her accepting the job her stepfather said she must take to support them. Lakshmi’s stepfather knew he could not afford anything, the crops that the family planned to harvest flushed away in a monsoon. He makes the deal to sell his stepdaughter because of his insufficient funds for new things for himself, not fussing too much over his family. Lakshmi’s stepfather selling his own daughter is him essentially saying that his daughter is worth nothing more than some cheap things from a store, equating a human life to just a few goods. Despite her father’s blatant disregard for his stepdaughter, Lakshmi feels she must do this for her family, speaking of her new job as a ‘maid’ telling her mother, ” you will have enough money for rice and curds, milk and sugar. Enough for a coat for the baby and a sweater for you…Enough.
..for a tin roof.” (McCormick, 49) Lakshmi doing this for her family is a part of her sacrifice, her willingly giving her life up to support her family back home that nobody else will. The tin roof to Lakshmi signifies her family living a life where her mother can afford ‘luxuries’ that won’t put her family into more debt then they are already in, luxuries that will keep her mother and little brother warm during the cool season. Lakshmi wants to give her family a good life, even if it means she will not be there living in that luxury, her wanting nothing more than her family to live a different life than the one they are living now.
She wants her family to live a life where her baby brother does not cry of hunger everyday and a life where her mother has enough to spend without having to ration food and hide money from her husband. Lakshmi believes she is doing something great for her family by going to work as a maid, but is devastatingly sold into prostitution. Ending up in India at a brothel called the Happiness house, Lakshmi soon realizes the irony, the irony being that the brothel is a place scant of happiness. She soon realizes what kind of establishment this is, when she refuses to have non consensual intercourse with a friend of the brothel owner.
She detests this, saying that she, “can feel him pushing himself between my thighs…He thrusts his tongue into my mouth” (McCormick, 103) she protests this by biting down on his tongue, and running away from the room. Afterwards, Mumtaz the brothel owner cuts Lakshmi’s hair. This is significant because a woman’s hair is a source of pride in India and other regions surrounding it where short hair puts dishonor on a home or family, it being taboo for a woman to usually have short hair. In this case when Lakshmi’s hair is cut, it shows that she has run from a brothel, sending a broad message to everybody, warding off help and preventing her from leaving, knowing the locals will shun her.
Lakshmi is then beaten for days and starved of food, because she refused to have sexual intercouse with Mumatz friend which was not consensual. Shortly after she was forgiven by Mumtaz, both her innocence and virginity are taken when she is drugged by a friend and given to a man who refers to his penis as ‘habib’ him raping her against her own will, shattering her innocence along with her trust. Events like this soon happen regularly, Lakshmi being drugged and men coming and going as they please, her trust being damaged more and more that she finds ways to ignore what goes on when her room door closes, saying, “if you are lucky or if you work hard at it, you hear nothing.” (McCormick, 127) This is sickening, because Lakshmi is no longer the small child she was when she entered the house, she is now mentally aging fast, going ahead and protecting herself from what is going on to her, something the average thirteen year girl should not be doing.
This shows something horrible in humanity, that a thirteen year old girl has to endure such vile acts to make sure her family does not starve and die, her sacrifice saving their lives. Towards the end of the book, Lakshmi matures significantly. From the young girl from the beginning of the book, to the woman she is, pushing through anything and everything to get out of the happiness house, even if that meant losing her innocence. Lakshmi had made sure she pulled out all the stops to get men into her bed, desperately trying to get home, even if that meant disregarding her own body. Lakshmi is broken, no longer physically, but mentally because of everything she has had to endure, abuse from her captor and men coming into her room for sexual intercouse.
Lakshmi questioned her own beauty after a man had come in and held her after their session, making her think about how, “no one will ever want her now” (McCormick, 178) because she is no longer a ‘pure one’ and that she has become ‘one of them’ the city girls that people talk about in a disgusting manner. She is also broken spiritually, vocalizing that she has felt that the gods have left her to suffer this horrible fate alone and is unsure of them even being there anymore. Lakshmi has undergone a change that changed her for the worst, making her a victim of stockholm syndrome, it making her not want to leave the ‘safety’ of the house, feeling as if she is protected when she forgets the world around her that would shun her for even being in the house.
Lakshmi had never wanted to be ‘one of them’ but now in the walls of confinement, of her personal prison she feels the most safe, not daring to step out of line afraid of being beaten or abused, seeing firsthand how people treated the women that worked in brothels. Lakshmi is not afraid of the brothel anymore, she is afraid, “to imagine a life outside this place.” (McCormick, 208). Lakshmi knows she has no life outside of this new identity and reality, everything she learns in the brothel applying to the part of her life that taught her more than her past thirteen years alone. Lakshmi then makes a strange encounter with an American who promises her to have a better life, a life of freedom.
Seeing it as a thing that is unfathomable in her mind when she is first offered it. Mumtaz had brainwashed the girls, feeding them decit instead of the truth, claiming that the americans make girls walk naked in the streets after they ‘liberate’ them, which was her futile attempt to keep the girls from leaving, if her personal henchmen fail. At first, Lakshmi is reluctant to believe is true because of all the rumors told about Americans and what they do, but had a slight change of heart when the American went over to her, showing her picture of free girls who were in the same position of her but were freed by people who cared, such as uncles and fathers. The American then tries and convinces her that she can leave, putting an end to her optimistic attitude, when the American says she should not forced to do anything under Mumtaz rules.
This strikes a chord in Lakshmi, due to the fact that she had no freedom coming here, her step father selling her for other goods he felt he needed over a daughter. Lakshmi sees freedom as something she could not even phantom up in her wildest dreams although she does not realize in this situation, it was hers for the taking. After the American told Lakshmi everything Mumtaz and all the men were doing was wrong, she was broken out of the trance, feeling an uncontrollable rage towards the men she would now, “…clench the sheets in my hands, for fear I will pound them to death with my fists. I grit my teeth, for fear that I will bite through their skin to their very bones.
I squeeze my eyes closed tight, for fear that I will see what has actually happened to me.” (McCormick, 254) Lakshmi was deceived, finally realizing that the American was speaking the truth to her about the Happiness house, highlighting the fact that what happened to her was illicit, breaking laws and that this suffering was inappropriate for a girl her age. Lakshmi, coming to her senses leaves when the American man and other men on the American’s side come, choosing not to be victim again, securing her own freedom with help from the Americans. Lakshmi has her doubts, but ultimately follows the American that comes for her, to go to this clean place he had promised, setting her free from the reluctance she faced before. Lakshmi had realized that there is a sliver of hope in the deepest pits of despair. Lakshmi has seen the worst of the human soul, but has learned that there is small room for correction in ways.
Throughout her journey, Lakshmi has learned that the world is filled with unpleasant people that will take advantage of people at a moment’s notice, if it means making a profit in a place where everything costs something. Lakshmi changes drastically, going from a small, innocent, inexperienced girl who had faced problems that were not too big to handle, to a girl sold into prostitution so her family could have one less person to support at home. Although Lakshmi goes through a lot of suffering, she leans that