Discuss the different socio-economic cultures in "The Postmaster."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Certainly, I would see that there are three distinct material realities that are evoked in the short story.  The first would be that of the title character.  The postmaster is educated and quite urbane, coming from the city.  His transition to the country is a challenging one, finding himself to unable to adapt to the ways of the village.  Being a postmaster, he is literate and is able to write letters, expressing a desire to leave the village.  Presumably from Calcutta, the postmaster misses being home and misses the cultural experiences that he is denied in the village.   On the other side of this would be the orphan Ratan.  She does not really belong to any particular class or socio- economic reality because she is an orphan.  Tagore constructs her to exist "outside" of reality to a great extent.  Those who occupy the lower class of socio- economic reality are included in the social strata.  Ratan seem to exist outside of this, in addition to the suffering that she endures.  She is poor and lacks little in way of autonomy or power in the village.  Her loyalty to the postmaster is reflective of a desire to belong, to anything.  This condition leads one to understand that, in contrast to the postmaster, whose economic and social condition leads him to embracing those elements that are reflective of power, Ratan lacks all of these.  The third class that can be explored is the class of the narrator, presumably Tagore.  Tagore occupies a class that is also outside of the reality shared by his characters.  This can be seen in the ending when he speaks of an inescapable sense of sadness and pain experienced for a moment by the postmaster and something that is rather permanent for Ratan.  In this condition, Tagore brings out how even socio- economic class cannot deny or evade some of the pain that is intrinsic to being human and having attachments.


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