Funny Boy

Appa Character Analysis

Arjie’s distant, authoritative, and successful father (“Appa” is the Tamil word for “father”). Although he is a brother to Mala Aunty, Kanthi Aunty, Radha Aunty (among others), Appa seldom appears in the first half of the book; in the third chapter, he quits his job at the bank to buy a hotel that proves very lucrative and skyrockets the family into Sri Lanka’s upper class. He plays a more prominent role in the last three chapters; in “Small Choices,” Appa takes in Jegan Parameswaran because he made a pact with Jegan’s father in his school days, but ends up torn—at first, between his affinity for Jegan (who reminds Appa of his father) and his fear of Jegan’s political associations, and later, between his promise to Jegan and the safety of his family (which is threatened by the community’s harsh response to Jegan after his arrest). Throughout the book, he worries intensely about Arjie’s masculinity and sexuality. He sends Arjie to the Queen Victoria Academy in the fifth chapter so that he will “become a man,” but is deeply disappointed when Arjie befriends the equally “funny” Shehan. At the end of the book, he stays in Sri Lanka to wrap up his business, while the rest of the family leaves for Canada.

Appa Quotes in Funny Boy

The Funny Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Appa or refer to Appa. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Funny Boy published in 1994.
1. Pigs Can’t Fly Quotes

It was clear to me that I had done something wrong, but what it was I couldn’t comprehend. I thought of what my father had said about turning out “funny.” The word “funny” as I understood it meant either humorous or strange, as in the expression “That’s funny.” Neither of these fitted the sense in which my father had used the word, for there had been a hint of disgust in his tone.

Later, Amma came out of her room and called Anula to give her instructions for the evening. As I listened to the sound of her voice, I realized that something had changed forever between us.

Related Characters: Arjie (speaker), Amma, Appa, Kanthi Aunty, Cyril Uncle, Anula
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
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3. See No Evil, Hear No Evil Quotes

“You’re putting your life at risk for nothing,” Amma insisted.

“It’s not nothing,” Daryl Uncle said. “People are being tortured and killed even as we sit in all this opulence.”

Related Characters: Amma (speaker), Daryl Uncle (speaker), Arjie, Appa
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:
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4. Small Choices Quotes

My father chuckled. “I don’t see any police out there, do you?” He poured himself another drink. “It’s not just our luscious beaches that keep the tourist industry going, you know. We have other natural resources as well.”

Related Characters: Appa (speaker), Arjie, Jegan Parameswaran
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“But we are a minority, and that’s a fact of life,” my father said placatingly. “As a Tamil you have to learn how to play the game. Play it right and you can do very well for yourself. The trick is not to make yourself conspicuous. Go around quietly, make your money, and don’t step on anyone’s toes.” […] “It’s good to have ideals, but now you're a man, son.”

Related Characters: Appa (speaker), Jegan Parameswaran
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:
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“How do you know he’s innocent?” my father asked. “We can’t be a hundred percent sure.”

“You mean you honestly think he’s guilty?” Amma asked, astonished.

My father was silent. We all stared at him, angry and hurt that he would really believe this.

“Look,” my father eventually said, “the best thing is to get as little involved as possible. If they find out that Jegan is connected to the assassination attempt, we could be accused of harboring a terrorist.”

“Nonsense,” Amma said. “Why would they accuse us?”

“These days, every Tamil is a Tiger until proven otherwise.”

Related Characters: Amma (speaker), Appa (speaker), Arjie, Jegan Parameswaran
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
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"You know,” she said, “I’ve been thinking about emigration.”

My father looked at her in shock.

“Canada and Australia are opening their doors. It would be a good time to apply. For the sake of the children.”

My father shook his head emphatically. “I’ll never emigrate. I’ve seen the way our people live in foreign countries.”

“It’s better than living in this terrible uncertainty.”

He turned to Amma angrily. “How can you want to emigrate? You saw the way our friends lived when we went to America. They come here and flash their dollars around, but over there they’re nothing.”

“It’s not a question of wanting or not wanting to go. We have to think about the children.”

“Don’t worry,” my father said. “Things will work out.”

And then after a while, “Besides, what would I do there? The only job I’d be fit for would be a taxi driver or a petrol station man.”

Related Characters: Amma (speaker), Appa (speaker), Arjie, Daryl Uncle, Diggy, The Banduratne Mudalali, Sonali
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

I was angry by now, but at whom I didn’t know. I thought about my father, but I couldn’t feel angry at him, because, when I remembered that yellowed piece of paper and the promise he had made to Jegan’s father, I actually felt sorry for him. I thought of the number of times he had abandoned his promise, how he had left Jegan in jail overnight, how he had taken the side of the office peon against him, and I wondered if he had actually had a choice in any of these matters. I thought, too, of how Jegan had said that his father was so proud of my father’s achievements, and I wondered what his father would think if he were alive now and could see what a mess everything had come to.

Related Characters: Arjie (speaker), Appa, Jegan Parameswaran
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:
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5. The Best School of All Quotes

“The Academy will force you to become a man,” he said. Sonali, Amma, and Neliya Aunty smiled at me sympathetically before they continued with their meal. Diggy had a look on his face that told me he understood all the things my father had not said.

Related Characters: Appa (speaker), Arjie, Amma, Diggy, Neliya Auntie, Sonali
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

I looked around at my family and I saw that I had committed a terrible crime against them, against the trust and love they had given me. I glanced at Amma and imagined what her reaction would have been had she discovered us, the profound expression of hurt that would have come over her face. She noticed that I was studying her, and she smiled. I looked down at my plate, feeling my heart clench painfully at the contrast between the innocence of her smile and the dreadful act I had just committed. I wanted to cry out what I had done, beg to be absolved of my crime, but the deed was already done and it couldn’t be taken back. Now I understood my father’s concern, why there had been such worry in his voice whenever he talked about me. He had been right to try to protect me from what he feared was inside me, but he had failed. What I had done in the garage had moved me beyond his hand.

Related Characters: Arjie (speaker), Amma, Appa, Shehan Soyza, Diggy
Page Number: 256-257
Explanation and Analysis:
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6. Riot Journal: An Epilogue Quotes

Chithra Aunty began to cry. Amma went to her and tried to comfort her. There was something ironic about that. Amma comforting Chithra Aunty. Yet I understood it. Chithra Aunty was free to cry. We couldn’t, for if we started we would never stop.

Related Characters: Arjie (speaker), Amma, Appa, Sena Uncle, Chithra Aunty
Related Symbols: Arjie’s Burned-Down House
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Appa Character Timeline in Funny Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Appa appears in Funny Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Pigs Can’t Fly
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
...children traverse the house’s eerie corridor and then meet their grandparents in the drawing room; Appachi (grandpa) scarcely acknowledges them, but Ammachi (grandma) always gives them an uncomfortably tight hug and... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...their room about the danger of him turning “funny” and becoming “the laughingstock of Colombo.” Appa is furious at Amma for letting their son dress up in her clothing. (full context)
2. Radha Aunty
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Ammachi informs the family that Mr. Nagendra—an old friend of Appachi’s from Cambridge—wants to marry his son Rajan to Appa’s sister Radha Aunty. In fact, the... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...Arjie wakes up excited to finally meet her. When his family arrives at Ammachi and Appachi’s house, Arjie is surprised to find Radha Aunty struggling to play the piano, looking completely... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...Radha Aunty a ride home, although they remain silent the whole way to Ammachi and Appachi’s house. (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...taking lifts from.” Ammachi is distraught to hear that Anil is Sinhalese; she complains to Appachi about Sinhalese boys’ bad morals and laments that “people will talk,” and this might threaten... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Arjie asks his father what “racist” means and what happened with the dead body. Appa dodges the first question but explains that the body was Ammachi’s father’s, and that he... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
When they return to Ammachi and Appachi’s house, Mala Aunty’s car is out front and the whole family is waiting at the... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...of the play, Aunty Doris refuses. They agree that Radha will stay in the play—but Appachi will drive her—after she comes back from Jaffna. After the next rehearsal, Doris explains her... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...Amma does not come get Arjie, and Anil gives him a ride to Ammachi and Appachi’s house, where the whole family is gathered. Diggy reports that “Radha Aunty’s train was attacked”... (full context)
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Because there was already violence near Arjie’s grandparents’ house, his immediate family brought Ammachi, Appachi, and Radha Aunty to stay with them for a while. One night, Arjie and Sonali... (full context)
3. See No Evil, Hear No Evil
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...American food, and then to Sri Lanka’s “first American-style supermarket,” which reportedly emerged from what Appa called “the end of socialism.” On one Sunday, they go to the beach, but Arjie... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
As Arjie’s family grows wealthier, Appa goes to Europe, and he asks the children what they want him to bring back.... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...feels “a terrible sense of distance.” At home, Amma finds and hides a letter from Appa. (full context)
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Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
Appa calls that night, and Amma talks to him “as if nothing unusual had happened in... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...they go to see Q.C. Uncle, an elderly civil rights attorney and old friend of Appachi. When she explains what happened and mentions Daryl’s name, Q.C. Uncle recalls that she “wanted... (full context)
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...evil punished.” He wonders how the family will try to adapt back to normalcy when Appa returns. And he does return the next week—they throw a party in his honor, and... (full context)
4. Small Choices
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
A deceased friend’s widow writes to Appa from Jaffna, asking his help employing their son Jegan, who had been working with the... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...to the family’s house a few days later. While Neliya Aunty goes inside to fetch Appa, Arjie “smile[s] shyly” at Jegan and explains that he and Sonali are picking snails out... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...Tamils uprooted by the riots—and then flatly asks if they are “connected with the Tigers.” Appa interrupts, yelling, “no politics.” Jegan says some are “sympathetic,” Amma asks if Jegan is, and... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
...dreams; he thinks this has to do with his own entry into puberty. At dinner, Appa apologizes to Jegan for never attending his father’s funeral and recalls how close they were... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
After Jegan starts working with Appa, the two become “inseparable,” even taking drinks together every evening. Arjie starts listening to their... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...the Gandhiyam organization and inspiring Arjie to live more purposefully. Over ta drink one night, Appa mentions Arjie’s “certain tendencies” and suggests Jegan might help him “outgrow this phase.” Arjie is... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...the “lamp” meant choosing to extend the existing government for six more years. Jegan and Appa come out to confront the man, who does not stop, and then Jegan grabs and... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
Appa promotes Jegan to take over his hotel inspection duty, and then brings him with the... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
The next day, Arjie sees Jegan bring the manager to Amma and Appa’s room at the hotel. Jegan complains that the manager has told him not to directly... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...trying to talk to him. Arjie is distraught at this news, and when Jegan and Appa return from work, Appa asks if Jegan has ever been “connected with the Tigers.” Jegan... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
After the family waits all evening for Jegan and Appa to return, Appa’s car comes to the gate at night. Jegan is not there; Appa... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...is Jegan, and the article says he “resides with a well-known Tamil hotelier.” Amma and Appa field phone calls all morning, and at lunch he explains that his office staff knows... (full context)
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Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
As they have their drink in the yard, Appa suggests that Jegan take a vacation to Jaffna, but Jegan says that “the best thing... (full context)
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That night, Arjie hears Appa explaining the incident to Amma, who thinks he “should have taken Jegan’s side.” But Appa... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
After a week, it is time for Jegan’s inspection duty, and Appa goes with him to “discourage any dissension among the staff.” They end up bringing the... (full context)
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Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
After Appa’s explanation, Amma breaks the news that she has been considering immigrating to Canada or Australia,... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...patio. In Sinhalese, the words “Death to all Tamil pariahs” are written on his window. Appa refuses to translate for a guest who asks what the graffiti means, and he tells... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...because they think the writing proves that “the hotel is going to be bombed tonight.” Appa decides to “salvage the situation” himself and tells Jegan to move rooms. Later, the lead... (full context)
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Appa does not come to breakfast, which is tense. They see him on his patio with... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...at whom [he doesn’t] know.” He feels betrayed by his father but also understands that Appa was in a tough position because of his childhood pact with Jegan’s father. He wonders... (full context)
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...by a member of Parliament “stuff the ballot boxes with false ballots” when Amma and Appa go to vote. The government “wins,” meaning it gets to rule for six more years.... (full context)
5. The Best School of All
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
Just before the new school term, Appa declares that he is transferring Arjie to Diggy’s school, the Queen Victoria Academy, because it... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...sorry” for his friendship with Shehan. He begins to warn about what will happen when Appa meets Shehan, but then trails off, although Arjie clearly understands the message. Arjie deliberately exclaims... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
...find the family inside, eating lunch, and declare that they were simply on a walk. Appa’s expression to Amma immediately demonstrates “that he disapproved of Shehan.” Arjie imagined his father walking... (full context)
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Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
After lunch, in Arjie’s room, Shehan points out that Appa did not seem to like him. Arjie asks if Shehan “want[s] to play a game,”... (full context)
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...at “the expectant faces” in the audience: Black Tie, the minister, Mr. Sunderalingam, Amma and Appa, and—to Arjie’s surprise and delight—Shehan, on the second floor balcony. Arjie recites the poems, completely... (full context)
6. Riot Journal: An Epilogue
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...AM. Arjie writes that the phone rang in the early hours of the morning and Appa informed the family that “there was trouble in Colombo. All the Tamil houses near the... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...really were burned down, and the violence is spreading. The adults finish their conversation in Appa’s study, and the children hear Amma sounding concerned inside. When they come out, the adults... (full context)
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...behind the rioting.” Because of the curfew, however, Sena Uncle cannot come get the family. Appa and Arjie think “the situation will soon be under control,” but Amma still wants to... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...describes what happened to Sena Uncle: A man stops at the family’s front gate and Appa cautiously goes outside to meet him. The man, an employee of Appa’s, tells him that... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
At 6:45 PM, still on July 25, Arjie writes that Amma and Appa told the children how to escape the house in case the mob shows up at... (full context)
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Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...one by one, climbed the ladder up the wall and jumped into the Pereras’ yard. Appa and Diggy hid the ladder, and then the family hid in the Pereras’ storeroom, which... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...beams of their house falling down. After the commotion, Perera Uncle opens the storeroom door. Appa wants to check out the house immediately, but Amma insists he wait until the morning.... (full context)
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At 3 PM, still on July 26, the family learns that Ammachi and Appachi have also had their house burned down—their whole street, full of burned houses, “looks as... (full context)
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...and that that night they would all be killed and his house burned. Amma and Appa want to go to a refugee camp, but Sena Uncle insists they stay, so they... (full context)
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...something odd is going on.” Sena Uncle thinks the men are only after money, but Appa and Amma still want to go to the refugee camp. (full context)
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Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...the family can get refugee status and go to Canada. The family is hopeful, and Appa says that they should “watch the situation for a little longer and then decide.” But... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...evening, on July 28, at 8 PM, Arjie writes that the family has learned that Appa’s hotel was attacked and almost burned down, although the guests had been moved out. The... (full context)
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...29, at 10 AM, Arjie writes that the visitors continue—this time, it is Ammachi and Appachi, who are just talking about losing their own house. Arjie is “irritated and lethargic,” but... (full context)
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...that the Tamil Tigers are now in Colombo—a story that the radio denies. Ammachi and Appachi left for Kanthi’s house, but did not arrive, and everyone is worried and praying. There... (full context)
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...back shortly after the previous journal entry and reported that a mob burned Ammachi and Appachi’s car, with them inside. Amma broke down crying; Appa insisted on going to the scene... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
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...the same entry, Arjie’s narration jumps to the day before, three days after Ammachi and Appachi were killed, and the day of their funeral. Radha Aunty came from America, and the... (full context)
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...lands as a child with Diggy and Sonali, but recognizes “that great difficulties lie ahead.” Appa is staying in Sri Lanka for some time to “settle many things.” They will go... (full context)