Study Guide

Sold Perseverance, Hopes, and Plans

By Patricia McCormick

Perseverance, Hopes, and Plans

But my ama, with her crow-black hair braided with bits of red rag and beads, her cinnamon skin, and her ears hung with the joyful noise of tinkling gold, is, to me, more lovely.

And her slender back, which bears our troubles—and our hopes—is more beautiful still. (4.SomethingBeautiful.6-7).

Lakshmi sees her future on the mountain here. Her mother, Ama, is everything she wants to be—strong, hopeful, resilient, and beautiful—and she gives Lakshmi hope.

Instead, we linger over a luxury that costs nothing:
Imagining what may be. (21.Maybe.18)

Take a look at the word "luxury" here. A luxury implies that what they are doing—hoping for the future—is extravagant and valuable. This suggests that many dreams don't come true in this community.

I nod yes-no-yes-no and run back to Ama, afraid to tell her about this new auntie who smells of amber and jasmine and possibility. (33.Possibility.10)

Sometimes Lakshmi wonders what the world is like beyond her mountain home. Unfortunately for her, Auntie Bimla—whom she meets here for the first time—will yank her away and down a path she'd never hope to travel.

I blink back the tears in my eyes. I ball my hands into fists. I will not do this dirty business.

I will wait until dark and escape from Mumtaz and her Happiness House. (70.Sold.21-22)

Lakshmi is in a locked room in a city where she knows no one and does not speak the language. And yet she remains convinced that she will escape. We admire her feistiness and the resilience of her hope.

I pound on the door.
I howl like an animal.
I pray.
I pace the room.
I kick the door.

But I do not cry. (70.Sold.31-32)

This is Lakshmi's response to being locked in the small room. And while she is clearly quite upset—and though she does not speak to hope once here—we know that hope is somehow a part of her time in the room because the girl who is locked in after Lakshmi promptly commits suicide… and Lakshmi doesn't seem to even consider it as an option.

All I know is that each time one leaves, my debt to Mumtaz grows a little smaller. (88.Counting.3)

In some ways, Lakshmi's education contributes to the hope she feels.

"I have heard they pay children fifty rupees a week," he says, "to break stones at the roadside."

He lifts the trunk, his skinny arms straining at the weight, and I wonder how long those little arms will last breaking stones. (133.AWordTooSmall.8-9)

Harish also has hopes and plans for his future, hopes that Lakshmi recognizes as potentially out of reach. Do you think Harish recognizes Lakshmi's hopes similarly?

"Are you being kept here against your will?"

My will?
This is something I lost long ago, I want to tell him.

I want to pummel this pink-skinned man with my fists. (137.AStrangeCustomer.12-14)

In what ways is it true that Lakshmi has lost her will, and in what ways has she retained it? In other words, how has she persevered?

He seems about to say something more, but I turn my back, all the while thinking about his tea, about how good it would taste, how the cup would warm my hands my throat, my whole being. (142.TheStreetBoy.8)

Lakshmi refuses to spend any of her money on extravagances because she is saving up to free herself from her debt to Mumtaz. Think of the self-discipline it must take to say no to something she wants so much and how this discipline serves Lakshmi throughout her captivity.

And today when the street boy comes, I will be ready.
Today I will ask him if it is really true that he knows everyone in this town. And today I will show him the small white American card with the flying bird on it. (163.AKindofSickness.2)

After Shilpa reveals the truth to Lakshmi, Lakshmi makes plans to free herself of the brothel. It's dangerous, but she chooses to accept the danger because her desire to leave Happiness House far outweighs the fear she has of what will happen to her if she stays.

He is still there, gripping his battered Nepali wordbook.

"The clean place," I say. "I want to go there." (169.Believing.13-14)

Despite each betrayal, Lakshmi chooses hope. Hope that the clean place exists. Hope that there is more to her life than the hell the brothel is. But is it hope that brings the Americans to her? Or is it just luck?

How stupid I was to believe in him and his digital magic.

How stupid I am to keep believing. (172.TwoKindsofStupidity.2-3)

Time and again Lakshmi has hoped, been let down, fallen into despair, and dared to hope again. Here she says it's stupid to keep hoping, and yet she continues to anyway. Why do you think this is?

I know something else as well. I know that I would endure a hundred punishments to be free of this place. (176.Punishment.28)

Lakshmi has found something within herself that she didn't have earlier in the novel. What has she found, and why has she found it now, at this point?

Then, slowly, she lets go of my arm, closes the door between us, and I hear a sad and final sound: the lock sliding into place. (177.TheWordsHarishTaughtMe.20)

When Anita locks herself into the cubby hole, the choice is symbolic. What does each girl's choice indicate about her hopes for her future and how she works to achieve these hopes?