The Postmaster -Summary
Summary of “The Postmaster”1: Rabindranath Tagore’s short story, “The Postmaster” centers around a young postmaster named Dadababu. Dadababu has been transferred from Calcutta to a small Indian village, Ulapur, for a position as postmaster. He finds himself feeling very lonely and unable to relate to the factory workers around him.
Conversation and companionship comes to Dadababu in the form of a young servant girl names Ratan. In an attempt to appease his loneliness Dadababu tells the girl stories about his distant family and even begins teaching her to read.Ratan quickly becomes attached to Dadababu and develops strong, seemingly romantic feelings for him. When Dadababu unexpectedly falls ill Ratan does not leave his bedside. However, Dadababu does not view Ratan in the same way. As soon as he recovers from sickness, Dadababu requests a transfer out of Ulapur. When his petition is denied, Dadababu simply resigns and informs Ratan of his departure.
The Postmaster -Summary Essay Example
Ratan is extremely upset and asks Dadababu to take her with him. He finds her question absurd and denies her request. Ratan is left depressed and grieving.With only a passing thought of Ratan’s grief, Dadababu boards a ship and is quickly engrossed in thoughts of business. Tagore’s “The Postmaster”: Exploring Cultural Miscommunication Within A Society Growing up in the midst of Britain’s colonization of India, Rabindranath Tagore experienced the rapid pace at which a society can change. Much of Tagore’s writing deals with the issue of a changing society and its political, economic, and cultural implications. The introduction of Western ideals within India resulted in a blending of Indian and British cultures.
This cultural intermingling often caused a miscommunication between not only the British and Indian people, but amongst Indians themselves. The influx of a non-native people brought an entirely new culture to India. While some Indians only partially assimilated Western tradition into their culture, others completely adopted the British’s ideals. There were also many Indians who adamantly resisted any British influence, thus creating divisions within Indian society. The concept of tradition became varied; while some strictly adhered to ancient rules and customs, others found it beneficial to reform or even rid of certain cultural practices.Many of Tagore’s stories reflect the miscommunication that occurred between those within the rapidly transforming society of India. In his short story, “The Postmaster,” Tagore’s main focus is the misunderstanding that often existed between Indians due to the various ways in which they were affected by their changing environment.
While the story takes place within a colonial context, its main function is not as an allegory for colonialism. Britain’s colonization, and the subsequent introduction of Western ideals, simply enhanced or expedited the country’s transformation.The mention of a “British manager” within the story’s setting of the small, Indian village of Ulapur, immediately sets the story within colonized India (Tagore 42). The British have successfully moved into the country and set up factories with which to expand their economy, and consequently, their culture. It is the “British manager [who] had…established a new post office,” and therefore supplied the job that brought Dadababu to Ulapur. This simply positions colonialism as the source of the change that launches the story into action.It places the piece within a colonial context, yet does not introduce any significant claim for or against colonialism.
In “The Postmaster,” Tagore is specifically concerned with India’s traditional marriage customs. The interaction of the characters Dadababu and Ratan exhibits the misunderstanding that often arose between native Indians as a result of divergent views on tradition. It is the difference in the emotions that Dadababu and Ratan have for each other that presents the central point of the story. Throughout the story, the two exhibit a misreading of each other’s emotions.Their misunderstanding is a direct result of their environment. At the age of “about twelve or thirteen,” Ratan has reached the appropriate age for marriage. During the time of Tagore and his writings, child marriage was a prevalent Indian custom.
However, as an “orphaned village-girl,” Ratan lacks any type of parental figure and consequently is somewhat naive regarding its associated customs (42). Generally, the parents of a young Indian girl like Ratan would actively search for the perfect spouse for their daughter.The fathers of the potential couple would meet and discuss the match as well as critical factors such as dowry (the traditional offering of money and goods to made by the prospective bride’s family as an incentive for the marriage). Due to the absence of a caretaker, Ratan does not have anyone to find her a suitable spouse. Rather than pursuing marriage for financial security, Ratan’s desire to marry is almost entirely based on emotion. She expects Dadababu to marry her because she loves him. Ratan’s actions often reveal her feelings of romantic love for Dadababu.
However, the postmaster continuously fails to recognize or reciprocate such emotions. When Dadababu asks Ratan to tell him of her family, she is more than happy to oblige. Ratan finds great significance in their nightly chats. She soaks in every tale about Dadababu’s family and believes the stories bring them closer together. She begins to “allude to the postmaster’s family – his mother, sister and brother – as if they were her own” (43). This relates to the traditional practice of marriage within India. After marriage, a young girl loses much of her contact with her own family and essentially adopts her spouse’s family.
She moves into her husband’s home and takes on her role as housewife, leaving her little time or contact with her own relatives. Aware of this aspect of marriage, Ratan expects such to occur. She wholeheartedly believes that she will marry Dadababu and therefore expects to take on his family as her own. In contrast, Dadababu listens to the girl’s stories yet does not express any significant reaction or emotion to them. He simply views them as an opportunity for conversation. Finding himself unable to relate to his coworkers and peers, Dadababu often feels “alone and exiled” and Ratan provides him with a means of conversation (43).As his stories prove, Dadababu has a family.
They would have taught him about the factors that should be considered when contemplating marriage. This differs from Ratan’s situation. Although both acknowledge the tradition, the values and factors they associate with deciding to marry differ. While Ratan considers love to be the driving force behind marriage, Dadababu would have been educated on the importance of securing a dowry and stable situation when considering marriage. In fact, as “a Calcutta boy,” Dadababu may have experienced an even greater sense of stress on the financial issue.As one of the larger cities of India, Calcutta was a greater industrial region. Offering more job and living opportunities, it attracted more people and thus, would have had a much greater cultural blending than the small village of Ulapur.
With such an awareness of the importance of finances and dowry, Dadababu does not view Ratan as a potential spouse. He refers to her as an “orphaned girl,” and is therefore aware of her poor financial status. Without a family, she has little or no money to offer and thus, is viewed as nothing more than a servant girl by Dadababu (46).In fact, he feels as though there is no one he can convey such feelings for and imagines “how it would be to have a close companion…, a human object for the heart’s most intimate affections” (44). Dadababu’s silent request for a lover further cements his lack of romantic sentiment for Ratan and subsequently, reveals his misunderstanding or ignorance of her emotions. Ratan’s devotion to Dadababu goes above and beyond her role as a servant. With almost every action, Ratan aims to portray her love as well as prove herself ready and able for marriage.
She does everything she can to prove herself a valuable companion. Ratan regards Dadababu’s reading lessons as yet another opportunity to demonstrate her qualifications. She considers the postmaster’s teachings as his way of preparing her for her future role as his wife. She pores over the lessons. She dedicates her free time to studying them, “terrified that if he suddenly summoned her again one day, the conjunct consonants would all be muddled up in her mind” (45). She cannot fathom failing him, for she fears that if she does, Dadababu would find her unworthy of marriage.Ratan is willing to take on any role necessary to prove her love and ability to Dadababu.
Immediately after Dadababu falls ill, she “took on the role of a mother,” never leaving his bedside (44). She nurses the postmaster back to health and stays “awake at his bedside all night long” (44). However, Ratan’s attempts to convince Dadababu of her love prove futile. Even after Ratan spends days at Dadababu’s bedside, nursing him back to health, Dadababu remains oblivious to Ratan’s love-fueled actions and emotions.When he announces his transfer, Ratan becomes extremely distressed. She asks “Dadababu, will you take me home with you? ” (45). Ratan’s request has cultural significance.
Still believing marriage to Dadababu is an option, Ratan expects to live with the postmaster and therefore, has no reason to find her question unreasonable. However, while Ratan cannot contemplate living without Dadababu, the postmaster laughs and finds the idea “impossible” (45). Again the reader is subjected to the miscommunication present between the two characters.Due to his stricter adherence to the traditions surrounding marriage, Dadababu recognizes that Ratan does not qualify as an ideal spouse. Consequently, he finds the idea of his bringing her home ridiculous. Dadababu never truly recognizes Ratan’s emotions. In fact, he stops only once to consider her feelings.
As he does in many of his pieces, Tagore presents the reader with an ironic twist at the end of the story. While on the boat leaving Ulapur, Dadababu reflects on Ratan’s strong reaction to his departure. It seems as if he may finally recognize Ratan’s love for him and finally understand her thoughts and emotions.However, just as quickly as he presents the possibility, Tagore takes it away. Despite taking the time to consider Ratan’s emotions, Dadababu fails to reconcile their misunderstanding of each other. He takes her broken heart for nothing more than grief, describing Ratan as “the grief-stricken village girl” (46). He still views her as just a “village-girl” and continues to hold a kind of indifference towards her (46).
His “sharp desire to go back” for Ratan is only passing and thoughts of her are quickly replaced with business matters (46).This displays society’s move to put an even greater emphasis on economic concerns, which only strengthens the reasoning behind Dadababu’s lack of consideration for Ratan as a wife. Through the story of Dadababu and Ratan and his description of their misunderstanding, it seems as though Tagore is warning the reader of the dangers of dowry and its implication on the tradition of marriage. Although he does not explicitly condemn the tradition, there are hints that if two people lack the same understanding of the associated customs, negative effects can ensue.As we see in “The Postmaster,” unfavorable repercussions occur because Dadababu and Ratan do not share the same concepts regarding the tradition of marriage. Ratan faces the most unfortunate results. Her dream of an attachment to Dada is crushed and she experiences humiliation and heartbreak.
She suffers the endless pain of “false hope,” and its “ripping [of the] veins and draining [of the] heart’s blood” (47). Even within the same culture, Dadababu and Ratan possess disparate backgrounds that only continue to diverge as time and society develop.A common theme throughout many of Tagore’s stories is the idea of attachment. He often explores the bond between parent and child, siblings, or even lovers and the strain that economic, political, and cultural issues have on such relationships. It is the disparity that exists between Ratan and Dadababu that Tagore is concerned with, seeming to allude to the fact that tragedies such as the dissolution or prevention of attachment occur when rapid and usually unforeseen changes in the environment separate people even within the same country.