"Shaym Selvadurai's Funny Boy concerns the loneliness & humiliation of a person."
Discuss your views with regard to the above statement.
(A person who naturally falls outside of the cultural constructions of gender.)
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I would argue that the statement only captures part of the novel's scenario. There are certainly several instances through the narrative that stress the humilation that Arjie has to endure, primarily because of his inability to fit into the male-female gender dichotomy (ethnicity too plays an increasingly inportant part as the novel unfolds). The novel tellingly begins with a description of the garden of the house where Arjie's extended family lives. The space is clearly divided into two parts: one for the boys and one for the girls. Yet, Arjie is included in the second territory where he seems to "gravitate naturally". The humiliation initially comes from within his family where his father obsesses that his son will turn out funny. This obsession leads him to enroll his son into the "Queen Victoria Academy", an institution where, as his brother warns Arjie, "you are a man. Either you take it like a man or other boys will look down on you”. Ironically, it is thanks to the Victoria Academy that Arjie will discover gay sex.
The ethnic riots between Tamil and Sinhalese groups that violently erupt towards the end of the novel lead to the destruction of Arjie's home. Arjie then articulates his despair and loneliness: "I felt hot, angry tears began to well up in me as I saw this final violation. Then, for the first time, I began to cry for our house. I sat on the verandah steps and wept for the loss of my home, for the loss of everything that I held to be precious." This passage comes right after Arjie his final meeting with his lover Shehan and stresses the character's loneliness.
Yet, the book also powerfully tells another story, that of Arjie's sexual awakening and his increasing acceptance of his homosexuality. The novel affirms the central character's growth from boy to man as he realizes that he has to challenge social conventions if he wants to be happy. The distance that he feels from his family and his society is therefore liberating. The novel finally affirms Arjie's sense of identity as a homosexual and his ability to overcome the social humiliations he has been subjected to.
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