Study Guide

Sold Friendship and Compassion

By Patricia McCormick

Friendship and Compassion

Inside Gita's family's hut, it is daytime at night.
But for me, it feels like nighttime even in the brightest sun without my friend. (2.BeforeGitaLeft.5)

Gita only appears at the beginning of the novel. She was Lakshmi's first friend, and the friendship they have is the ruler against which Lakshmi measures her friends in Happiness House. Also, the second line foreshadows the despair Lakshmi will spiral into when, one by one, the friends she makes at Happiness House are forcibly pulled away from her.

One day Shahanna comes to my room, bearing a cup of tea and a leftover heel of bread. She slips a small plastic package into my hand.

"Don't let Mumtaz see this," she whispers. (86.TheDangerofProtection.1-2)

Already, even in Lakshmi's darkest days when she first arrives at Happiness House, people who have experienced the same thing she is experiencing demonstrate compassion toward her. And this compassion and kindness make Lakshmi's life more bearable. What would her life be like without the kindness of others?

Harish throws back his head and laughs.

And I laugh, too.

It is strange to laugh after all these months, odd and unfamiliar.
But somehow, not hard at all. (118.Don'tCrosstheCook.4-6)

Harish is teaching Lakshmi words, partly because of her love of learning but also because a tentative friendship is developing. Why might the laughter between the two of them be weird to Lakshmi, and also not weird to her?

It has been twelve days since the hugging man came.
I have decided to stop counting the days until he comes back. (121.NotCounting.1)

The hugging man and Lakshmi experienced an intimacy and a tenderness that sticks with Lakshmi. Why is this human connection so much more meaningful than the experiences she has with the other men?

Then he hands me a pencil. It is shiny yellow and it smells of lead and rubber. And possibility.

"For you," he says. […]

How odd it is that I am undone by the simple kindness of a small boy with a yellow pencil. (123.AGift.2-3, 7)

Think back to when Lakshmi meets Auntie Bimla for the first time and she smells of "amber and jasmine and possibility" (33.Possibility.10). How is the idea of possibility here related to friendship and kindness instead of adventure and journey? And why does this kindness "undo" Lakshmi? Why is it this compassion instead of the horrible things she's experienced that makes her cry?

But without Harish, I am like Anita. I cannot smile, even if there is a reason. (135.LikeAnita.1)

Just a reminder: Anita is the girl whose face was disfigured by the goondas. What does the loss of Harish as a friend mean to Lakshmi? How might it affect her in the coming days?

"You can have her for a while," she says. "You know, instead of Harish."

She says this so quickly her words barely register. (136.InsteadofHarish.6-7)

Monica—the thirsty vine girl, the aggressive girl—recognizes Lakshmi's suffering and gives her a doll she sleeps with every night. What does this indicate about Monica's own ability to make friends and how she understands friendship and compassion?

I tell her I am ill, but the truth is that all I do is lie in bed and read Harish's beautiful American storybook over and over again.

Shahanna has just been taken from Happiness House, either by the corrupt police or by the good Americans. We never know. Think about everyone Lakshmi has lost. Why might she want to just lie in bed and read? What emotions might she be feeling, and how might she be coping with them?

And I understand that Anita has hit me.

I sit up, as if waking from a long sleep, and see this poor girl with the lopsided face. She is all I have left in the world.

I rise, shaky, as Anita helps me to my feet. She puts her arm around my waist and guides me toward the mirror. Then she gets out her makeup brushes and lip colors and paints my face with such tenderness that I think my heart will break. (148.AllIHaveLeft.6-8)

What would happen to Lakshmi if Anita weren't there to pull her back into the world? Why does Anita first hit Lakshmi and then treat her with "such tenderness"? What does this indicate about the nature of the friendship between the two and also the needs of both girls?

I see that it has the image of the flying bird on its cover, and I say a silent prayer of thanks to the street boy whose name I will never know. (169.Believing.1)

Lakshmi gave the street boy the card the first American gave her, and he passed it along. The ties of friendship and the kindnesses Lakshmi has given and received have, in the end, enabled her to reach for freedom.

"Please," I beg her. "Come with me. If you stay here, you will die."

Anita is clutching my arm. "Don't go," she cries.

I cannot move.
I cannot go to my American.
And I cannot walk away from my crooked-faced friend. (177.TheWordsHarishTaughtMe.15-17)

It's incredibly difficult for Lakshmi to choose between the friendship she has developed and the unknown. How have friendships made it strangely more difficult for Lakshmi to leave Happiness House? Could you argue that friendship and kindness have both saved her and hurt her?