Rabindranath Tagore, a worshipper of universal humanism, depicts two different streams of Nationalism in his novel The Home and the World. The first stream may be termed as Moderation that articulates essentially pure patriotism without showing the aggressiveness of the Extremism that is the other stream. Both these streams surely are built on the basis of ideals and the followers are motivated according to their beliefs. In this novel Nikhil is a personification of moderate politics whereas Sandip represents the aggressive nationalism throughout the novel.
The relationship between Sandip and Nikhil, despite being good friends, is one of extreme duality. Although they are the male protagonists, the essentials of their character are blatantly contrasting from one another. On one end, Sandip is a strong and aggressive character who is very much a militant nationalist in his approach. Being an openly vocal character, Sandip does not hesitate to declare that "My country … becomes mine on the day when I am able to win it by force." On the other end, Nikhil is the passive and mature thinker who is strongly against violence and extreme nationalism. Being a strong believer in rational thought and action, Nikhil believes that, “To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.”
Bimala's husband, Nikhil, is wise and enlightened. He holds no personal agenda of manipulation and is rather honourable 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 nationalist movement and that the charismatic leader might have an ulterior motive at play. Yet, Nikhil maintains his dignity with considerable poise 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 honour 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, who is reflective in how he lives in the world. Nikhil sacrifices for his ideals and suffers because of it.
Tagore’s development of the character of Sandip is one in which one sees the calculating self- interest masked in the facade of nationalism and public interest. When he escapes, Tagore makes it clear that he is doing so for his own self- interest and no other reason. One the other hand, Nikhil sacrifices himself for people he does not know. This demonstrates how a universal understanding of what it means to love and care for others in a sense that is not contingent is more difficult, but more rewarding from a moral and ethical point of view. Here, Tagore makes it clear that universality, and understanding the implications of it, is far more beneficial than a position of temporality and contingency.
The author's sympathy lies obviously on the side of Nikhil that resembles Tagore himself to a great extent, if not altogether. The author viewed human relationships from the perspective of the everlasting values of love, trust and hope; not in terms of dominance, violence and hatred. Tagore's affection for Nikhil demonstrates this; as well as his own sense of loyalty and preference.