Character of Arjie in the Novel Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

Funny Boy, a critically acclaimed coming-of-age novel written by Shyam Selvadurai, explores the life of its young protagonist, Arjie. Set in Sri Lanka during a time of political and social turmoil, the novel delves into Arjie’s journey of self-discovery, as he navigates the complexities of gender, sexuality, and societal expectations. Arjie’s character challenges traditional norms and defies societal constraints, making him a compelling and relatable figure for readers of all backgrounds. This article will delve into the multifaceted character of Arjie, examining his childhood experiences, struggles with societal expectations, exploration of his sexual identity, and relationships with family and friends. Moreover, it will explore Arjie’s role as a symbol of resilience and rebellion, and the lasting impact of his character in the realm of LGBTQ+ literature.

Character of Arjie in the Novel Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

  1. Introduction

    Table of Contents

Arjie is the youthful, witty, and endearing protagonist of “Funny Boy”. As a young boy with a vivid imagination, Arjie possesses a curiosity and innocence that makes him both relatable and lovable. Arjie’s journey takes us through his childhood and adolescence, as he grapples with societal expectations and discovers his own unique identity.

  1. Arjie’s childhood experiences and early signs of his unique character

2.1 Arjie’s upbringing and family background

Arjie comes from a middle-class Tamil family in Sri Lanka. Growing up in a household filled with love and familial expectations, he is surrounded by his doting grandparents, strict parents, and supportive siblings. His family’s traditions and cultural values shape his upbringing, providing a backdrop for his personal growth and struggles.

2.2 Early indications of Arjie’s non-conformity to traditional gender roles

From a young age, Arjie exhibits a spirited nature that sets him apart from other boys. While his male peers indulge in traditional games and displays of masculinity, Arjie finds solace in playing bride-bride with his female cousins. By stepping outside the confines of gender norms, he showcases his signature quirkiness and individuality.

  1. Arjie’s struggle with societal expectations and gender norms


3.1 Pressures on Arjie to conform to societal expectations

As Arjie grows older, he faces mounting pressure from society to adhere to traditional gender roles. Confronted with the expectation of conforming to heteronormative ideals, he must grapple with the weight of societal expectations that conflict with his own true self.

3.2 Arjie’s conflicts with gender norms and stereotypes

Arjie’s journey is rife with conflicts between his own desires and the prescribed gender norms of Sri Lankan society. His refusal to conform to the traditional expectations placed upon him creates tension and challenges the rigid stereotypes surrounding masculinity and sexuality.

  1. Arjie’s exploration of his identity and realization of being gay


4.1 Arjie’s gradual awareness of his identity

As Arjie embarks on his path of self-exploration, he begins to recognize his own sexual orientation. Through various experiences and encounters, he gradually becomes aware of his attraction towards men and comes to terms with his identity as a gay individual.

4.2 Arjie’s personal journey of self-discovery and acceptance

Arjie’s personal journey towards self-acceptance is both poignant and relatable. He navigates the challenges of societal prejudices, family expectations, and personal doubts with courage and resilience. As Arjie embraces his true self, readers witness a powerful transformation, filled with self-acceptance, love, and the triumph of authenticity.2>8.2 The importance of Arjie’s representation in LGBTQ+ literature and its impact on readers

  1. Arjie’s relationships and conflicts with family members and friends


5.1 Arjie’s bond with his family members

Arjie’s relationships with his family members play a significant role in shaping his character. He shares a deep bond with his mother, father, and two older sisters. Despite their differences and occasional disagreements, there is a strong foundation of love and support within the family. Arjie’s mother, in particular, becomes his confidante and ally as he navigates his own identity and deals with societal pressures. Their relationship showcases the unconditional love and acceptance that is often essential for anyone struggling with their true self.

5.2 Arjie’s friendships and the impact on his character development

Arjie’s friendships also contribute to his growth and self-discovery. From his childhood companions, Shehan and Radha Aunty, to his later friendships with Anil and even his sister’s boyfriend, Jegan, each connection leaves a lasting impact on Arjie. These relationships bring out different aspects of his personality, allowing him to explore different parts of himself and find the courage to challenge societal norms. Arjie learns valuable lessons about loyalty, acceptance, and the power of friendship in shaping one’s identity.

5.3 Conflicts and tensions arising from Arjie’s identity within his relationships

Arjie’s identity as a gay individual creates tensions within some of his relationships. His close-knit family, while loving, grapples with understanding and accepting his sexual orientation. This conflict, although painful, adds depth to the narrative and highlights the inner struggles faced by many LGBTQ+ individuals in traditional societies. Arjie’s journey is not just a personal one but also a reflection of the larger societal challenges surrounding identity and acceptance.

  1. Arjie’s journey towards self-acceptance and embracing his true identity


6.1 Arjie’s inner struggles and conflicts

Arjie’s journey towards self-acceptance is riddled with inner struggles and conflicts. He battles with self-doubt, fear of judgment, and the pressure to conform to societal expectations. The weight of these struggles is palpable throughout the novel, as Arjie grapples with his desire to be true to himself while also navigating the societal and familial pressures that seek to suppress his identity.

6.2 Arjie’s pivotal moments of self-acceptance and self-realization

Despite the challenges he faces, Arjie experiences pivotal moments of self-acceptance and self-realization. These moments empower him to embrace his true identity and defy societal conventions. Whether it’s his daring performance as a bride in the school play or his decision to pursue a relationship with Shehan, Arjie learns to prioritize his own happiness and authenticity. These moments of self-realization are powerful reminders of the resilience and strength that lie within individuals facing adversity.

  1. Arjie’s role as a symbol of resilience and rebellion against societal constraints


7.1 Arjie’s defiance of societal norms and expectations

Arjie emerges as a symbol of resilience and rebellion against societal constraints. His refusal to conform to the traditional norms imposed upon him showcases an unwavering determination to live life on his own terms. Arjie challenges the rigid gender roles, prejudices, and expectations surrounding him, inspiring others to question and challenge the status quo.

7.2 Arjie’s impact on challenging and changing societal perceptions

Arjie’s journey also has a wider impact on the people around him, challenging and changing societal perceptions. Through his resilience and authenticity, Arjie becomes a catalyst for empathy, understanding, and acceptance. His story encourages readers to question their own prejudices and biases, fostering a more inclusive and compassionate society.


Arjie’s representation in LGBTQ+ literature is significant in its ability to resonate with readers from all walks of life. His story sheds light on the universal experiences of self-acceptance, love, and the desire to live authentically. Arjie’s character challenges stereotypes and encourages readers to embrace diversity and support LGBTQ+ individuals in their own communities. Through his journey, readers are reminded of the power of acceptance, understanding, and the importance of being true to oneself.


Arjie's character is significant in LGBTQ+ literature as it provides a nuanced portrayal of the challenges faced by individuals exploring and accepting their sexual identity. Arjie's journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance resonates with many readers who have experienced similar struggles. His character challenges societal norms and offers representation and validation to LGBTQ+ individuals, contributing to a broader understanding and acceptance of diverse sexual orientations.
Arjie defies traditional gender roles and societal expectations by rejecting the predetermined path set for him. He exhibits qualities that are typically associated with femininity, such as his love for arts and his resistance to conforming to masculine norms. Arjie's character challenges the notion that gender identity should be strictly defined by societal norms, encouraging readers to question and challenge these rigid expectations.
Arjie's character embodies resilience and rebellion throughout the novel. Despite the pressures and discrimination he faces, he remains true to himself and embraces his individuality. Arjie's unwavering determination to live authentically not only inspires readers but also challenges the oppressive structures of society. His character serves as a catalyst for change, urging readers to question societal norms and fight against injustice and inequality.
Arjie's story is deeply rooted in the cultural and political context of Sri Lanka during a time of significant social change. The novel portrays the impact of ethnic and political tensions on the lives of its characters, highlighting the complex interplay between personal identity and societal expectations within a multicultural society. Arjie's journey mirrors the struggles faced by many individuals in navigating their identities amidst a backdrop of deep-rooted cultural and political divisions.

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