Funny Boy

Tamil Tigers Term Analysis

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 Boy ends at the outbreak of this war, in 1983, when Arjie and his family are about to emigrate to Canada). Based in the heavily Tamil northern and eastern sections of Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers demanded an independent Tamil state in those areas, which they planned to call Eelam. Because they violently lashed out against their opponents, political figures, and even fellow Tamils who disagreed with their policies, 32 countries declared the Tigers a terrorist organization, and many observers (both Sri Lankan and foreign) got the false impression that the Tigers’ position reflected the desires of all Sri Lankan Tamils. Throughout Funny Boy, Arjie’s family members struggle with their relationship to the Tigers; his Ammachi (grandmother), whose father was killed by a Sinhalese mob, defends them, while his parents consider them extremist. Jegan Parameswaran, the son of a family friend whom Arjie’s family takes in during one chapter of the book, is a former member of the Tamil Tigers, and the family starts getting targeted for their ties to him. The Civil War breaks out after Tamil Tigers kill a number of soldiers and Sinhalese mobs, supported by the Sri Lankan government, lash out in response, indiscriminately murdering Tamils and burning their homes and businesses.

Tamil Tigers Quotes in Funny Boy

The Funny Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Tamil Tigers or refer to Tamil Tigers. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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.
4. Small Choices Quotes

“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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Tamil Tigers Term Timeline in Funny Boy

The timeline below shows where the term Tamil Tigers appears in Funny Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
2. Radha Aunty
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...the only official language. Over time, by listening to adults, Arjie learns about the Tamil Tigers (whom Ammachi supports) and their attempt to create a separate state. Appa, however, sends Arjie... (full context)
Forbidden Love and Family Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...notes that the ethnic tensions between the Tamils and Sinhalese are worsening, as the Tamil Tigers are becoming more violent. This might make a “mixed marriage” dangerous. (full context)
3. See No Evil, Hear No Evil
Masculinity and Queerness Theme Icon
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...the adults talking about politics—there is an ethnic war between the Sinhalese and the Tamil Tigers in Jaffna, and Daryl, who is a journalist, has come to investigate claims of torture... (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
...the boy’s involvement in the Gandhiyam movement, whom he worries are “in league with the Tigers.” He decides he will ask the boy about politics before hiring him. As Appa walks... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...resettles 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,... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...of whom Arjie reminds him. This friend migrated to Canada, while Jegan joined the Tamil Tigers—which Arjie is astonished to hear, but promises not to recount. Jegan has since quit, because... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...and Appa return from work, Appa asks if Jegan has ever been “connected with the Tigers.” Jegan explains his history with them and Appa calls a friend in the police, who... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...that Jegan is no terrorist: the two men he talked to at the racetrack were Tigers “planning to assassinate a prominent Tamil politician.” He makes Arjie recount “exactly what [he] saw”... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...soon will. He also found a note on his desk “accusing [him] of being a Tiger” and got hateful phone calls all day. And then, the police let Jegan go, without... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...comfortable speaking Tamil in public, and Appa hopes that “once the government destroys these damn Tigers, everything will go back to normal.” But Amma thinks “these Tigers and their separate state”... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...no trouble, and they encounter none until their way back, when one man calls Jegan “Tiger” and throws a bottle at them. They run back to the hotel and Amma recounts... (full context)
6. Riot Journal: An Epilogue
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
...dumbstruck and Amma wonders why; Appa explains that it is in retaliation for a Tamil Tigers attack against some soldiers, whose funeral took place the previous night. But Appa says not... (full context)
Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence Theme Icon
Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening Theme Icon
...on the same day, Arjie writes that the rioters have returned, yelling that the Tamil Tigers are now in Colombo—a story that the radio denies. Ammachi and Appachi left for Kanthi’s... (full context)