The Home and the World

by Rabindranath Tagore

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 414

The Home and The World was written by Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1916.

The story is centered on the personal evolution of Bimala, a woman who came from a poor economic class and was considered unattractive by cultural standards. Bimala was devoted to her husband, Nikhil, who came from an aristocratic family of landowners. The difference in Nikhil and Bimala's social standing was a commentary on the caste system and the economic divisions in India at the time.

Tagore also used the contrasts in Nikhil's and Bimala's backgrounds to demonstrate Nikhil's love for Bimala, as Nikhil's family had always prized beautiful and wealthy women. By not following his family's tradition, Nikhil showed Bimala and the society around him that his devotion to her was more important than superficial ideas.

Bimala represents how women—regardless of social and economic class—were perceived and treated by society. Bimala was expected to live a domestic life by society, even though Nikhil had encouraged her to experience "the real world" by taking her to a political rally.

When Bimala met Sandip—a fiery, radical, and gifted debater—as a guest in their home, she was initially put off by his brash nature. However, she gradually became enthralled with his political views, particularly those on anti-imperialism. Sandip was a proponent of the Swadeshi movement, which promoted Indian independence and nationalism. The movement was a reaction to the British Empire's colonialist history in India.

Bimala transformed from a traditional housewife to an independent woman. Bimala's "awakening" is an analogy of Indian independence. At this point in the novel, Sandip represented the Swadeshi movement and Nikhil, although also politically-minded, represented the old system of serfdom and traditionalism.

The love triangle between Bimala, Nikhil, and Sandip represents the dilemma that Indians faced at the time: make progress toward independence or remain within their tradition. Although not explicitly considered feminist literature, Tagore deftly used feminist theory as an analogy to articulate the political complexities of India's push for independence.

When Sandip asks Bimala to steal money from Nikhil, she realizes the true nature of Sandip's intentions. For Sandip, stealing from Nikhil, who represented the wealthy elite in good standing with the colonial power, was a revolutionary act. However, Bimala thought that stealing from her own home was equivalent to stealing from her nation. With this realization, Bimala not only kept her newfound nationalism, she also refined it by learning that progress can only be achieved through ethical means.

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