The Home and the World Characters
The main characters in The Home and the World are Bimala, Nikhil, Sandip, and Bara Rani.
- Bimala is the novel’s protagonist. Although initially attracted to Sandip and his revolutionary ideas, Bimala comes to reject them.
- Nikhil is Bimala’s husband and a wealthy merchant with progressive views. For much of the novel, he feels he is losing Bimala’s respect.
- Sandip is a revolutionary who feels permitted to use others and forego moral constraints in the name of his ideals.
- Bara Rani is Nikhil’s sister. She dislikes Bimala and undermines her interests for much of the novel.
Bimala is the protagonist of the novel. She arguably undergoes the most transformation in the story, beginning as a devoted worshiper of her husband until Sandip appears. She realizes she is bored of her husband and is easily seduced by the passionate Sandip, though she consistently feels shame for this and occasionally longs to feel the way she once did about her husband. She discovers Sandip’s treachery and manipulation when he convinces her to steal money from her husband and ultimately grows to feel personally empowered when she rejects Sandip and admits to stealing Nikhil’s money. As the story progresses, she takes on different ideological stances, experimenting with Sandip’s ways of thinking, but ultimately develops a moderate way of thinking somewhere in between her husband’s moral humanist and Sandip’s Machiavellian approaches to life.
Nikhil is Bimala’s well-to-do husband, a merchant who owns an estate and two marketplaces in Bengal. He is educated and described as “modern” and progressive in his outlook. He sees his wife as his equal, and he would go to great pains to see her happy, even if that means her leaving him. As the story progresses, he begins to feel as though he is not enough for his wife. As a result, he grows more and more melancholy, distancing himself from her and focusing on improving himself as he anticipates her leaving. Nikhil is a humanist, and he sees dignity in all people, even his enemies. Such a view allows him to be taken advantage of, such as by his sister and Sandip. Nikhil’s humanist stance also prevents him from siding with one particular faction; he sees value in both traditionally Indian and English ways of thinking. This becomes problematic for him as the story progresses, because his inability to explicitly denounce European colonialism leads some to think he sides with European colonialism. Similarly, his humanist stance is problematic in that it leads to low self-worth. Nikhil rarely asserts himself when people take advantage of him because he often feels he has no power or right to his own possessions or thoughts.
Sandip is an Indian revolutionary driven by his passions. Early in the story, he comes to live with Bimala and Nikhil, despite the fact that he disagrees a great deal with Nikhil’s notion of an Indian revolution. If Nikhil represents temperance and logic, Sandip represents extreme thought and passion. He is a Machiavellian or even Nietzschean figure, believing that certain individuals stand outside the purview of normal justice or righteousness; truly great figures, he believes, do not show justice or sympathy but take what they are owed by the world. He sees some of his own passion and beliefs about reclaiming India in Bimala, and he intends to seduce her both as his political counterpart and lover, but his compunctions prevent him from acting on the latter. Although he is skilled in maintaining composure during philosophical arguments, he does not like to feel powerless or foolish, and this is shown when he grows angry as Bimala begins to pull away from him after his initial seduction of her.
Rani is the widowed sister of Nikhil. She resents Bimala for marrying her brother and is manipulative and vindictive toward her. Throughout the story, she finds ways to insult or provide backhanded compliments to Bimala on a regular basis. She also orchestrates events designed to frustrate or anger Bimala. She further seems to take advantage of her brother’s kindness, taking money and gifts from him while knowing that he will not retaliate for her treatment of Bimala. In the final chapter,...
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Nikhil realizes that this resentment is because she has no relationships or friendships with anyone other than Nikhil. Still, by the end of the story, it seems that Bimala and Raini have developed a fragile understanding of one another. Once Bimala acts subserviently to Rani, the backhanded compliments become fewer, and Rani even wants to help celebrate Bimala’s birthday. Even after this, there is still tension in the relationship, and Rani ultimately blames Bimala for sending Nikhil to the Muslim uprising at the end of the story.
Chandranath is Nikhil’s schoolmaster. Both Chandranath and Nikhil believe in giving people individual freedoms over dogmatic doctrines, such as swadeshi. He regularly gives Nikhil advice. Like Nikhil, his principled way of thinking alienates him from those he is trying to help. For instance, while he provides Panchu with a loan and a home, Panchu ultimately loses respect for Chandranath, because Chandranath does not ultimately help him to reach a better place in life.
Panchu is a destitute older man who lives in Bengal selling found trinkets for food. Nikhil sometimes tries to help him monetarily and provide him advice, but there is little that Nikhil can do to fix Panchu’s situation. As the story progresses, Panchu experiences greater and greater degrees of abuse at the hands of both landowners and people tied to the swadeshi movement. Panchu may be seen as a metaphor for India itself, which loses when polarized factions are fighting for its loyalty.
Amulya is a disciple of Sandip. He plays an important role in the second half of the story, as he both adopts and exhibits the implications of Sandip’s thinking. He has no qualms, for instance, in suggesting that he and Bimala kill a cashier for six thousand rupees. As Bimala takes a more maternal or sisterly role toward him, she is able to convince him of Sandip’s villainy, and he attempts to reform himself and renounce Sandip’s extreme views.