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Tagore's The Postmaster highlights the contrast between urban and rural through vivid descriptions of nature and insightful portrayals of human relationships.
The urban is portrayed as proud and detached, both in sentiment as well as in psychology.
Nor is a Calcutta boy an adept in the art of associating with others. Among strangers he appears either proud or ill at ease.
The postmaster fails to be sufficiently moved with inspiration to write some good poetry despite the generous beauty inherent in his surroundings. He feels out of place in this rural community where an appreciation of its virtues must lie in his ability to draw in its subtle charms without reservation. Indeed, the postmaster fails to see any obvious glamor in rain-swollen rivers, dense bamboo thickets, soft, cool breezes, or flooded and muddy village roads. The rural represents acute loneliness to the postmaster; the 'gloom of the rains' similarly sicken him into melancholy and ill-health. In the end, he requests a transfer on account of the 'unhealthiness of the place.'
In the postmaster's mind, the urban is suffused with memories of comfort and love:
He longed to remember the touch on the forehead of soft hands with tinkling bracelets, to imagine the presence of loving womanhood, the nearness of mother and sister.
"Oh, if only some kindred soul were near—just one loving human being whom I could hold near my heart!
Ironically, he fails to appreciate or to recognize the daughterly love that Ratan, the simple little errand girl, has for him. Her rural simplicity revels in an open appreciation of each moment. She is content to let the postmaster decide how time is spent in the evenings.
Thus, as they talked, it would often get very late, and the postmaster would feel too lazy to do any cooking at all. Ratan would then hastily light the fire, and toast some unleavened bread, which, with the cold remnants of the morning meal, was enough for their supper.
When the postmaster's request for transfer is denied, he decides to return to Calcutta. However, he does not offer to bring Ratan with him. Refusing to recognize her distress and obvious hurt, he stoically attempts to reassure her that he will ask his new successor to look after her.
Yet, despite the postmaster's urban detachment and nonchalance, he is not unaffected by Ratan's grief. When he leaves, even nature seems suffused with bitter mourning:
When he got in and the boat was under way, and the rain-swollen river, like a stream of tears welling up from the earth, swirled and sobbed at her bows, then he felt a pain at heart; the grief-stricken face of a village girl seemed to represent for him the great unspoken pervading grief of Mother Earth herself.
So, nature (the rural) is represented as a yielding and embracing entity, while the urban is represented as a coldly rational entity. Tagore portrays the urban as an uncompromising entity which seeks to exclude and to marginalize.
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