The Home and the World

by Rabindranath Tagore

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Identify a theme of The Home and the World.

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One of the primary themes in Home and the World is the danger of nationalism and political extremism. Tagore shows how nationalist fervor can escalate and quickly turn aggressive and, when it does, how it can hinder a country rather than propel it to glory. Tagore conveys the idea that glory is the ultimate goal of nationalism, however, and that the pursuit of glory is linked largely to a country's devotion to the religious traditions that molded it into a nation.

In the novel, a character named Sandip is the leader of the Swadeshi movement, and he recognizes that the movement has the potential to turn aggressive. Still, however, he uses religion and epic poetry to promote the goals of the movement, which shows how people from many countries and in many historical eras used religion to justify their nationalism. Tagore recognizes that the combination of ethnic and religious fervor can easily ignite passions that spin out of control, as he equates nationalism with blind ambition and greed. Thus, he shows that ethnic nationalism has been used by many people to justify oppression, violence, and war.

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One of the themes that emerges from the story is the idea that political action is multi- faceted.  Political action is not entirely pure and while there are individuals who embrace its purity, those in the position of leadership might not have the cause as their sole purpose.  Tagore's depiction of Sandip is one such instance where political leadership is not done as much for the belief in a cause as much as it is to substantiate his own position of power.  Sandip's charismatic ways are as much to attract individuals to the movement as well as attract individuals like Bimala to his own sense of being in the world.  His status is one in which he is able to use political power into feeding his own agenda.  In this, Tagore is able to illuminate the theme that politics in the modern setting is an entity with many facets to it.  At a time when political action was taking hold in India in different forms, the idea of illuminating the potential for individual notions of the good concealed by the calls for "national unity" and transcendent notions of political being is thematically powerful.  It is for this reason that the multiple dimensions of political action becomes a major theme in Tagore's novel.

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