Funny Boy

Black Tie Character Analysis

The cruel, traditionalist principal of Victoria Academy. Universally feared by the students, Black Tie is often seen wearing an old-school British colonial outfit, overlooking Victoria Academy from the balcony next to his office. When a lock of Shehan’s hair falls out of place, Black Tie gives Shehan a rudimentary haircut and punishes him endlessly along with the other students he deems the “future ills and burdens of Sri Lanka.” A proponent of keeping the school multiethnic, Black Tie faces a challenge from Mr. Lokubandara, who wants to take his job. To help keep his power, Black Tie organizes a ceremony for a prominent politician and enlists Arjie to recite two of his favorite poems at this ceremony. When Arjie messes up the poems’ words, Black Tie canes both him and Shehan, and he eventually forces them to kneel outside on the balcony for hours for the same reason. Arjie eventually decides to purposefully botch the poems he is to recite during the ceremony in order to ensure that Black Tie loses his job and Shehan is no longer senselessly punished with the “ills and burdens.”

Black Tie Quotes in Funny Boy

The Funny Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Black Tie or refer to Black Tie. 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.
5. The Best School of All Quotes

I felt bitter at the thought that the students he punished were probably the least deserving. They were the ones who had broken his rules—no blinking, no licking of lips, no long hair—a code that was unfair. Right and wrong, fair and unfair had nothing to do with how things really were. I thought of Shehan and myself. What had happened between us in the garage was not wrong. For how could loving Shehan be bad? Yet if my parents or anybody else discovered this love, I would be in terrible trouble. I thought of how unfair this was and I was reminded of things I had seen happen to other people, like Jegan, or even Radha Aunty, who, in their own way, had experienced injustice. How was it that some people got to decide what was correct or not, just or unjust? It had to do with who was in charge; everything had to do with who held power and who didn’t.

Page Number: 268-269
Explanation and Analysis:
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Black Tie needed me, and because he needed me, power had moved into my hands.

I looked at Black Tie and realized that any fear of him had disappeared.

Related Characters: Arjie (speaker), Black Tie, Mr. Lokubandara
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:
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Black Tie Character Timeline in Funny Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Black Tie appears in Funny Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
5. The Best School of All
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...tells him to be careful about the abusive and sadistic principal, whom everyone calls “ Black Tie .” Black Tie beats children senseless for winking or licking their lips, and nobody complains... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...return to. When he and Diggy arrive, he marvels at the school’s ominous colonial building— Black Tie stands on the balcony, wearing an old British colonial topee hat and an old white... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...Lokubandara (who wants to make the school officially Buddhist, like most of the Sinhalese) and Black Tie (who is Buddhist but “want[s] the school to be for all races and religions”). Later... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
After about two months, Arjie finally sees Black Tie , who visits class during “a rubber-band-and-paper-pellet fight.” Everyone pulls out their books and Soyza... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
At the end of the day, Black Tie releases Soyza with short hair cut in “jagged layers.” Soyza knows that there is nothing... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
In social studies class that day, a prefect and favorite of Black Tie nicknamed “the Angel of Death” (because he always delivers bad news) comes to bring Arjie... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
After school, Arjie tells Soyza about what happened in Black Tie ’s office, and then Diggy tells Arjie not to associate with Soyza, who is known... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
The next afternoon, Arjie visits Black Tie for a practice run at reciting the poems. He runs into Soyza, still with the... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
...clothes are ironed, and he has carefully coiffed his hair to hide the horrible cut Black Tie gave him. Arjie wonders what Soyza’s home life is like, and they go inside, where... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
The next day, Arjie and Shehan take up their same roles for Black Tie . Arjie “studies” Shehan’s body and notices his smell; again, he forgets the poems and... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...hour, Arjie and Shehan return inside again, but now Arjie has a plan. He asks Black Tie if he can go to the bathroom, then runs to the staff room and finds... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Mr. Sunderalingam agrees to talk to Black Tie , and Arjie starts making his way upstairs. Thinking about Black Tie’s cruelty toward Shehan... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
After school, Mr. Sunderalingam visits Black Tie , who then calls Shehan and Arjie inside and releases them. They run downstairs and,... (full context)
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...does not leave class, as usual, or go to the principal’s office. In a fury, Black Tie visits to retrieve him: Shehan was only set free yesterday, but expected to continue his... (full context)
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...probably did so in secret, or were deliberately forgotten. Arjie realizes that the school’s rules—especially Black Tie ’s rules like “no blinking, no licking of lips, no long hair”—have nothing to do... (full context)
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
During second period, Black Tie calls Arjie to his office, where Shehan is still kneeling on the balcony, and makes... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...of the ways he can use this power to save Shehan or get back at Black Tie . He realizes he can completely mess up the poems and throw off Black Tie’s... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...he sees his name on the program and begins to feel “a flutter of fear.” Black Tie brings the minister to the front row, the choir sings the national anthem, and then... (full context)
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...the stage and stares at the microphone, then 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... (full context)
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
Black Tie begins his speech and accuses Arjie of “defil[ing] a thing of beauty, wreak[ing] havoc on... (full context)