Analysis of Tagore's The Home and the World as Socio-political Novel : Bimala- Nikhilesh- Sandip Tangle

Viewed purely as a social political novel, Tagore's The Home and the World seems to make a sharp distinction between two rival political impulses, Nikhilesh representing the pure passion for constructive work in swadeshi (nationalism), and Sandip its greed and destructive energy .Nikhilesh worships nothing but truth which is greater than the country, and which is alone all temporary crazes; for Sandip the success of the moment, no matter by whatever means it is the only thing that matters. For Nikhilesh, the Ideal is the principal ingredient in the real; for Sandip the Ideal is tolerable only when it is a means to the attainment of the Real. Bimala, the central character of the novel, who has been given a large number of autobiographical narratives than the other two principal characters, is torn between these two contending forces which exercise a powerful fascination over her mind. Nikhilesh’s passion for absolute truth reminds us of the sages of ancient India, and the dominating force in Sandip’s character is greed which is the lane of modern western nationalism. The novel has been regarded as an allegory, Bimala, standing for modern India, Nikhilesh for ancient India and Sandip for modern Europe.

However, many would feel that the real meaning and interest of the novel lies in its moving portrayal of man -women relationship, in the psychological conflict, in the personal drama of husband and wife knowing each other both at home and in the world. The swadeshi agitation is a necessary political backdrop only became it is through this upheaval that an Indian wife can suddenly tear the moorings of a sheltered domestic life and float adrift in the high seas of a countryside agitation. The novel is full of political discussions and they are important only is so far as they help to reveal the working in the minds of Sandip, Nikhilesh and Bimala. Ibsen’s Nora (A Doll’s House) and Tagore’s Bimala belong to two different worlds. The former sands far an idea, which the latter is an individual woman who may be distantly connected with an idea. Unlike Nora, Bimala does not stand for women’s liberation. When, early is the novel, Nikhil urges Bimala, so long a typical Hindu wife to come out of her secluded existence and to meet the world, Bimala is at first indifferent to the idea, saying ‘what do I with the outside world.’, Nikhilesh is not a Torvald Helmer and does not make a doll of his wife, neither does he try to impose anything of his own on her. A mighty political agitation that sweeps over the country and breaks the barriers of age, gives the Indian wife an opportunity to come out of her secluded existence. Not only does Bimala leave the introverted; but her mind and sight, her hopes and desires become red with the passion of the new ages. And it is at this time she meets Sandip, a fiery nationalist, who thinks and feels differently from her husband. Sandip is frankly champion of greed and of the Nietzschean will to power. Bimala is fascinated by sandip’s impetuous vitality beside which her husband’s lour for truth, eternal and absolute, seems to be very thin. Bimala’s burning devotion to her country is mined up with her attraction for the country’s hero Sandip, who flatters her as the incarnation of sakti , the goddess from whom the son of Bengal will derive inspiration and energy.

Bimala does not share, Nikhilesh’s ideas, and therefore, although she notices that Sandip’s eloquence grows when he catches sight of her, she lets Sandip worm his way in to her heart. Even when she finds herself on the high tide to excitement, she argues with her husband in support of Sandip’s doctrines. Although Bimala and Sandip are drawn towards each other by what seems to beam insuperable attraction, the adulterous impulse is soon checked, Bimala discovers that behind the sparkle of Sandip’s brilliance there is in him the slime of weakness, meanness and cowardice and she recoils in disgust.

Are we to believe that there has been a fundamental misalliance between Nikhil and Bimala which years of mutual devotion and trust have not been able to remove? Sandip, a keen observer and an analyst, says “How little these two persons, who have been together day and night for him years, knows something perhaps of their home life but when it comes to outside concern they are entirely at sea. Although Bimala does not explain anything, Nikhil fears that he might have acted as a fetter around her. Therefore, when the tension between them becomes acute, he tells her that she is free and he does not want to keep her as a garland arrow his heck. One sees therefore that Tagore’s treatment of Bimala- Nikhilesh- Sandip tangle is much more subtle than E.M.Forster recognizes when he calls the novel simply a variation on the theme of triangular love and little more than a boarding house flirtation.   

Ardhendu De 



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