Discuss how Arjie's marginalization empowers him to explore his sexuality in Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai. Please show how he finds empowerment in his life and include examples from the novel.

In Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy, Arjie's marginalization as a Tamil combines with his status as the child of a wealthy family to give him the opportunities and freedom from scrutiny to explore his same-sex attractions and understand his sexual orientation with minimal interference.

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In Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy, Arjie, the protagonist, comes from a wealthy family in Columbo. However, his family is marginalized within Sri Lankan society, and is becoming more so because they belong to the Tamil minority. Arjie's father attempts to mitigate the effects of their marginalization by enrolling his children in Sinhalese classes at school and teaching them, as far as possible, to blend in with the dominant Sinhalese group.

It is through the failure of a relationship between his Aunt Radha and a Sinhalese man that Arjie learns about the conflict between the Tamil and Sinhalese people and begins to understand his own social and political position. His awareness of this grows alongside his understanding of his own sexuality, which his family attempts to ignore, describing him as "funny" rather than addressing the question of his sexuality directly. He does not understand quite what they mean by this:

It was clear to me that I had done something wrong, but what it was I couldn’t comprehend. I thought of what my father had said about turning out "funny." The word "funny" as I understood it meant either humorous or strange, as in the expression, "That’s funny." Neither of these fitted the sense in which my father had used the word, for there had been a hint of disgust in his tone.

Although Arjie's father hints at disgust, this emotion remains latent, allowing Arjie to explore his own nature without overt interference. It is his marginalized status as a Tamil that brings him together with Jegan, a former member of the Tamil Tigers. He has his first strong feelings for Jegan and, though nothing results from them, they foreshadow a more serious relationship in the following chapter which is, ironically made possible by his dual nature as a Tamil and as a "funny boy." Arjie's father sends him to Victoria Academy to toughen him up and "force you to become a man." However, the immediate result of this is to allow him to cultivate a relationship with a boy called Shehan, which confirms to him that his strongest desires are same-sex, particularly when they kiss:

I felt amazed that a normal thing—like my friendship with Shehan—could have such powerful and hidden possibilities. I found myself thinking about that moment Shehan had kissed me and also of how he had lain on his bed, waiting for me to carry something through. I now knew that the kiss was somehow connected to what we had in common, and Shehan had known this all along.

Ultimately, the combination between Arjie's privileged status as the child of rich parents and his marginalized status as a Tamil allow him to escape scrutiny and explore his sexuality at his own pace, developing in confidence and certainty as he does so. It is only after his encounter with Shehan that he understands the nature of his father's concerns, and by this time, his course is already clear to him.

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