Character of Tissa in Bringing Tony Home by Tissa Abeysekara


The novel Bringing Tony Home is an autobiographical novel revealing the three stages of life of the writer himself. The story is written in three parts: The Sunset, Tony and The Little Train which depicts the three stages of Tissa’s life. First, Tissa as an adult film maker and the second phase is about his childhood adventure with his pet Tony, finally Tissa as a school boy as a developing character. To know the story better, we can glimpse into the life of Tissa Abeysekara.

Tissa Ananda Abeysekera was born in Maharagama, a railroad town 12 miles southeast of Colombo. He grew up in his ancestral house, Greenlands in Havelock Town, Colombo. Tissa's father declared bankruptcy in 1949. Due to poor health, Tissa was not sent to school until age 11. Tutored at home at first, he had his formal education at Dharmapala Vidyalaya in Pannipitiya.

Tissa was an artist, who saw society through an artistic lens, yet equally felt the distress that humans did undergo in this riddle called life. He clutched every day attributes in life, and transformed them into a work of everlasting art, either in the form of literature that carried great weight in printed form, or images in motion. Abeysekara died on 18 April 2009, at Colombo National Hospital after having been admitted for a heart condition.

At the onset of the novel Tissa introduces himself to the reader: “Growing up in Egodawatta, first as a lonely boy, and then as a wayward teenager, I had watched fascinated the awesome sunset over Attidiya many a time. Now almost three decades later, I had returned, to capture it on film.”

When Tissa’s family left their house at Dapanama, Tissa was less than a ten years old boy. He himself introduces as a lonely boy because he had had no companionship no brother or sisters, due to his poor health he had got no chance to get acquainted with any friends. His sole companion was his loyal dog Tony. As a middle class family from Colombo suburbia, they lived quite comfortably in a large house. However, when the world war struck, the economy of the family collapsed (we have no clue about what was Tissa’s father’s occupation, probably related to business.) Therefore, they all had to move to a smaller house at Egodawatta.

Tissa’s character can be assessed as a child, an adolescent and a mature adult. However, the story mainly focuses on Tissa as a child under ten years old. Though he is introduced as a lonely feverish child, he demonstrates ample positive qualities throughout the novel. He is a developing character with experiences and gets adapted to things well. His bravery and determination is visible through his radical actions and firm decision making. The salient feature in his character is he is aesthetically inclined, sensitive character whose vivid description about the background makes the reader experience a visual movie when reading the novel.

Though he was timid to speak against the injustice of leaving behind his only companion Tony, he fights against it by deciding to bring Tony back. He follows his heart because he feels angry about what his parents had done: “I was sad and angry because we had left Tony behind.” Therefore, he decides to do what is to be done: “I was going to take Tony home; walk with him all the way from Depanama to Egodawatta.” To a child under ten years, this is a brave decision to make, his decision is a demonstration of his true devotion to his companion as well as his determination to do the correct thing. As a feeble boy, he carries a responsible weight of ration, a mirror as well as dog along with him. Though he collapsed on the way, he manages to amble home. He tactfully avoids the crowded places and does not reveal his secret plan to anybody. All these things show a character of a target oriented person. However, his decision making might be seen as irresponsible and callow because he just followed only his heart. As a sick and feverish child, he could have faced a devastating situation on the way without the knowledge of anybody.

Tissa as a small kid is rational and radical to his age. He is puzzled about the impractical nature of blindly following advices. He thinks Casabianca did a mistake by following his father’s advices:

“I thought as I always thought that Casabianca did a stupid thing by sticking there on the burning deck because when his father asked him to stay there he wasn’t ever expecting the deck to catch fire;”

In addition to that he despises the father’s motto ‘there’s not to reason why, their’s but to do and die’ in the famous poem Charge of the Light Brigade. His mind was taught to accept it as it was ‘nothing but supreme examples of British Imperial stupidity.’ As he claims, his idea of bringing Tony home came up with his feelings, to do the right thing. Therefore, this reveals his honest character which follows his heart to do the rational thing.

Tissa has the ability to adapt to new situations. Though he was leading a lonely life, he could be adjusted to the social life quickly. After the departure of Tony, he could join the Sirisen’s boys gang using his collection of marble. As a school student also he showed active participation to the events of the school: ‘though at school I was quite active and outgoing…’ Therefore, Tissa’s character can be taken as a resilient and adaptive character. However, throughout his lifetime, he was unable to get over the guilty feeling of leaving Tony behind.

Throughout the novel the reader can see the vivid imagination of the character of Tissa. As a young boy, a teenager and a prolific film maker he showcases his power of imagination and giving life to things in his mind. He has the ability to see things in mind like a movie. He is able to generate a visual picture of the surroundings to make the reader feel like they are watching a movie:

“…The amber light was slowly receding over the field and far away where the golden-brown expanse too a right turn and disappeared, the sky was turning deep red. The sound of distant thunder came from the east.”   

He uses his experience and vivid imagination to recreate the past background of Colombo in his tele drama ‘Pitagamkaryo.’

The character of Tissa can be taken as a developing character with experiences. With the encounters of life and his maturity of age he develops as a progressive character. His development is visible in the novel from a feeble feverish child to a mischievous school boy and finally into a prolific writer and an artist who won the fame of the world.

What are your ideas about the character of Tissa in the novel Bringing Tony Home? Please do share your valuable insights to enlighten our readership. Share the post if you find this useful to others.   


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