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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 589

In the beginning of Chapter 4 of Girls Burn Brighter, Savitha thinks,

Every moment in a woman's life was a deal, a deal for her body: first for its blooming and then for its wilting; first for her bleeding and then for her virginity and then for her bearing...

(The entire section contains 589 words.)

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In the beginning of Chapter 4 of Girls Burn Brighter, Savitha thinks,

Every moment in a woman's life was a deal, a deal for her body: first for its blooming and then for its wilting; first for her bleeding and then for her virginity and then for her bearing (counting only the sons) and then for her widowing.

This quote criticizes the way women are treated in Indian culture: as aesthetic objects, as breeders, and as things to be cast aside. Savitha's own horrific experiences (Poornima's father raping her, her working in a brothel, her forced addiction to drugs, her amputated hand to make her more "attractive" to a man who wants to "buy" her) contribute to Savitha's conception of the female body as a thing that is separate from the individual residing within that body. For Savitha, men care only about the corporal body: its beauty, its virginity, its fertility, its submission. They do not think about the human inside: the woman who is smart, loyal, and capable of loving and being loved. Rather, the body is something to be bargained for or to make a "deal" over.

Poornima also shares this bitterness. In Chapter 3, she thinks,

We girls. Afraid of the wrong things, at the wrong times. Afraid of a burned face, when outside, outside waiting for you are fires you cannot imagine. Men, holding matches up to your gasoline eyes. Flames, flames all around you, licking at your just-born breasts, your just-bled body. And infernos. Infernos as wide as the world. Waiting to impoverish you, make you ash, and even the wind, even the wind. Even the wind, my dear, she thought, watching you burn, willing it, passing over you, and through you. Scattering you, because you are a girl, and because you are ash.

Poornima's thinking is the result of a culture that tells her she is inferior to men, that she should be ashamed of being a woman, and that she can be treated with horrific cruelty at any time (indeed, her husband throws hot oil on her face, scarring her—both literally and figuratively—forever). The hot oil is conjured in this passage in Poornima's diction: the "burned face" references her own scars, but even as horrible as her disfigurement is, it's nothing compared to the outside fires "you cannot imagine." That fires literally consume women in this passage, "licking" and "impoverishing" them, suggests the most prominent theme of this novel: a culture that dehumanizes and debases women simply because of their gender will inevitably drive those women away as they look for acceptance somewhere else. To equate a "girl" with "ash"—the remains of something destroyed, something burned—repeats this message: women are worthless.

There is hope in this novel, however, and we get glimmers of it even in the early pages, before tragedy, loss, and torture have scarred the lives of Poornima and Savitha. Poornima thinks, "It seemed to her that anything a person has held is a thing they never really let go." The friendship between Poornima and Savitha that blossomed when they were young girls, before Poornima was married and Savitha was raped, is something each woman has held—a friendship that reiterated their worth as intellectual beings, as empathic companions, and as individuals with far greater worth than just their gender. Thus, despite all they go through (physical disfigurement, torture, rape, abuse, etc.), they never really let go of the idea that they will someday "burn brighter" than all of the despicable men who perpetuate a grossly misogynistic culture.

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