Character of Ratan in The Postmaster by Rabindranath Tagore

Expert Answers
teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ratan is a sensitive, affectionate, and idealistic girl. She accepts her lot in life with good nature; there is every indication that, in Tagore's story, Ratan is an "untouchable." In Indian society, untouchables (or Dalits) are often consigned to the dirtiest jobs. These untouchables often endure living under the most unsanitary conditions. Because of their low status in Indian society, untouchables live impoverished lives. They are (like Ratan) usually illiterate because the education system discriminates against them, causing large populations of school-aged Dalits to drop out of school.

In the story, Ratan considers herself fortunate to be in the employ of the postmaster. Ratan's docile subservience is characteristic behavior for members of her caste. The text tells us that Ratan has "borne many a scolding from her master without complaint." Ratan does not consider her employer's often brusque and rude behavior strange; in fact, she accepts such ill treatment as typical of what members of her caste must endure. 

Ratan does not realize (until it is too late) that the postmaster has little intention of accepting her into his family. Ratan's actions and words demonstrate her innately trusting nature. It is this nature that clouds her judgement regarding the postmaster's true character.

In the end, Ratan's idealistic/trusting nature shames the postmaster and almost prompts the latter to go back for the "lonesome waif, forsaken of the world." 

 

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ratan is an orphan.  She lives her life in this village, pretty much as an orphan.  She is alone and few pay attention to her.  When the Postmaster enters the villages and is at a loss to properly function, he takes Ratan on as sort of an assistant.  In this, Ratan proves that she is quite skilled and possesses much more talent than originally thought.  She is dedicated to her work.  Whereas the postmaster dislikes his work and expresses this dislike, Ratan is genuinely immersed in what she does and how she helps the postmaster.  When he offers to teach her how to read and write more to pass his own time of boredom in the village, she proves to be a model student, one who is eager to learn and with a mind like a sponge to absorb information.  Ratan is also quite caring, demonstrated throughout, but shown well when she takes care of the postmaster when he is sick.  She had always shown a level of devotion to him, helping prepare his meals, getting his pipe, and other items such as that.  Yet, it moves to a more profound level when she takes care of him while he is ill.  Ratan's loyalty is shown in the end when she asks the Postmaster to take her with him.  Her dignity and loyalty speak loudly, even more passionately than the callous and rather cruel attitude of the Postmaster.  In the end, while he is the title, I feel the story is more about her and that there are more Ratans in a nation like India whose voice might have been validated in Tagore's short story.