Sometimes seen as Tagore's darkest novel, part of this comes fro the characterizations of Sandip and Nikhil. Bimala's husband, Nikhil, is wise and enlightened. He holds no personal agenda of manipulation and is rather honorable in trying to get Bimala to take stock of the world and her place in it. He understands Sandip fairly well, recognizing that he might be duplicitous in his alleged love of the movement and that the charismatic leader might have an ulterior motive at play. Yet, Nikhil maintains his dignity with considerable aplomb and does not allow his own personal feelings to interfere with the nobility and sense of grace he strives to embody. This is seen in the critical point in the novel when he seeks to defend the honor of women who are being targeted by looters. It comes as no benefit to himself to pursue this, but Nikhil recognizes something larger at play and follows it to a sad end.
Whereas Nikhil embodies something larger than himself, Sandip operates on his own motives by cloaking them in the Swadeshi movement. Tagore depicts Sandip as charismatic and very charming. A leader in the resistance movement, Sandip understands human motivation very well. He understands how to convince people of what he wants them do for him, as Sandip is very much driven by his own personal agenda. He is able to convince and charm Bimala through this talent. It is here in which Sandip is markedly different from Nikhil, reflective in how he lives in the world, able to survive in looking out for himself. Nikhil sacrifices for his ideals and suffers because of it.