Discuss the two best lines of the story, "The Postmaster."Discuss the two best lines of the story, "The Postmaster."

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

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For me, I think that the two best lines come out of both a description of Ratan and a description of the painfully human condition in which she lives.  I choose these lines because, in my mind, the story is a homage to Ratan.  The postmaster might get the title, but she has Tagore's respect and she is the character through which so much is evident.  I think that the line where Tagore describes her listening to stories about the postmaster's family is extremely significant:

Eventually, Ratan referred to the postmaster's family- his mother, sister, and brother- as if they were her own.  She even formed affectionate imaginary pictures of them in her own mind.

I feel this is a great description because it is so poignant.  Tagore is skillful at arousing a sense of empathy within the reader.  One cannot help but feel a profound wave of emotion in reading about an orphan who has no one so that the description of someone else's family is appropriated as her own.  The emotional nudity of these lines is what makes it so significant for me.

I think that the conclusion is very noteworthy, as well.  On one hand, the ending is painful.  The postmaster leaves, Ratan is abandoned, and there is little else to indicate otherwise.  The postmaster has a fleeting thought about his callousness and his basic cruelty in rejecting Ratan, an orphan "whom the world had abandoned."  He ends up using his own extensive philosophical background to create a justification for his actions, something that provides comfort to him in not being able to fully explain how or why he broke another person's heart. Tagore's conclusion is powerful to this point:

But Ratan had no such philosophy to console her.  All she could do was wander near the post office, weeping copiously.

I like this line because, again, it's very honest about where Ratan is at the end of the story.  She is the heroine.  Granted, she does cry and does weep for the postmaster, but there is a great deal of strength featured in how she serves as a constant reminder of what the postmaster did.  She is the element that never leaves.  Her dignity intact, her stature as both an orphan, but now as a survivor is solidified.  It is something that allows or compels her to move into a realm of transcendence.  The ending of the story is one where there is little sense made of why people hurt one another, why humans keep returning to situations that cause them pain.  There is only Ratan's image in our mind, a concrete reminder of the "snares of delusion" that bind and constrict our state of being in the world.

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