Funny Boy


Shyam Selvadurai

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The capital and largest city of Sri Lanka, located on the island’s southwestern coast, where Arjie and his family live throughout Funny Boy. Colombo is very ethnically diverse, with only slightly more Sinhalese than… read analysis of Colombo

Sinhala / Sinhalese

The Buddhist majority ethnic group of Sri Lanka, which comprises about three-quarters of the island’s population, as well as the name of this people’s language. The Sinhalese-led government fought the Sri Lankan Civil War against… read analysis of Sinhala / Sinhalese


Sri Lanka’s second-largest ethnic group, dominant in the island’s northern and eastern portions, as well as their language (which is Dravidian and historically unrelated to Sinhala). The majority of Tamils actually live in the… read analysis of Tamil


The Tamil word for the colored dot traditionally worn by Hindus between the eyebrows. (In English, this is most commonly called by its Hindi name, bindi.) read analysis of Pottu

The King and I

A celebrated 1950s musical based loosely on the memoirs of an Anglo-Indian woman who becomes a governess (nanny and tutor) for the King of Siam’s children in the 1860s. The woman’s teachings conflict with the… read analysis of The King and I
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Tamil Tigers

Short for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a militant nationalist group that fought and ultimately lost the 26-year Sri Lankan Civil War against the national government from 1983-2009 (although the action of Funny Boyread analysis of Tamil Tigers


A city in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, which is primarily Tamil. This is where much of the violence recounted in Funny Boy starts, including the 1981 riots that kill Daryl Uncle and send Jeganread analysis of Jaffna


A small, socially privileged, mixed-race ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are descended from European male colonists and (usually, but not always) native Sinhalese or Tamil women. Generally, they retain cultural and linguistic ties to… read analysis of Burgher

Little Women

An acclaimed, semi-autobiographical 1886 novel by American writer Louisa May Alcott, which recounts the coming of age of four sisters in Massachusetts. Little Women is famed in part for being one of the first prominent… read analysis of Little Women

Prevention of Terrorism Act

A Sri Lankan law passed in 1978 that gives the police wide discretion and almost unchecked power to arrest, detain, torture, and sometimes execute people suspected of associating with terrorists. This essentially puts the entire… read analysis of Prevention of Terrorism Act


A large piece of cloth traditionally worn wrapped around the lower body by men in Sri Lanka. read analysis of Sarong

Gandhiyam Movement

A movement inspired by Gandhi’s teachings that aided Tamil refugees displaced by ethnic violence in the lead-up to Sri Lanka’s Civil War. Jegan was a member of the Gandhiyam Movement before fleeing Jaffna for Colombo. read analysis of Gandhiyam Movement


Another term for the game of rugby. In the book’s penultimate chapter, the game is popular at Arjie’s new school, Victoria Academy. read analysis of Rugger

Topee hat

Also known as a pith helmet, a cloth-covered helmet popular among European colonial forces and “adventurers” in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Black Tie, the principal of Victoria Academy, wears a topee hat, which… read analysis of Topee hat

Vijaya and Kuveni

The legendary first king and queen of Sri Lanka, who ruled the island for a half-century until about 500 BC. Vijaya, who came to Sri Lanka from India, supposedly married the indigenous Kuveni, with their… read analysis of Vijaya and Kuveni