Funny Boy


Shyam Selvadurai

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Funny Boy, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Masculinity and Queerness

Set from the late 1960s to the early 1980s in Sri Lanka, Funny Boy follows the childhood and adolescence of Arjie Chelvaratnam as his nation hurdles toward civil war. At the same time as he watches Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority gradually turn against his minority Tamil community, Arjie comes to terms with the consequences of being gay in a patriarchal culture and family. From his earliest days, Arjie fails to meet his family's expectations of…

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Forbidden Love and Family

While Funny Boy's most important love story is undeniably about Arjie discovering his sexuality and meeting Shehan, the vast majority of the book follows other relationships, in all of which people fall in love across, despite, and even because of the social boundaries that separate them. Like Arjie’s sexuality, these forbidden relationships draw familial ire; and yet, whereas Arjie learns to accept his sexuality despite his family’s criticism, the book’s forbidden relationships seem…

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Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Violence

Behind Arjie’s coming of age, Funny Boy also traces the lead-up to the Sri Lankan Civil War, a growing tension between Sri Lanka’s Sinhala majority and sizable Tamil minority that eventually erupts into violent conflict and becomes the book’s driving force, uprooting Arjie and his family forever. And yet Selvadurai presents this ethnic conflict from the perspective of a boy who scarcely cares about ethnicity. In doing so, he sheds light on the fundamental…

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Justice, Power, and Moral Awakening

As it follows Arjie’s coming of age, Funny Boy also becomes a tale of moral development: Arjie encounters and grapples with blatant injustices that challenge his initial faith in human goodness. Yet, rather than giving up on the idea of a just world and resigning himself to the self-interested worldviews of those around him—including, at times, his own family—Arjie continues to pursue the just world he recognizes as impossible. Nevertheless, in responding to the…

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