In “The Postmaster,” Tagore shows how loneliness can be temporary for some people and permanent for others.
The postmaster struggles mightily with loneliness. He cannot find social connection with the people of Ulapur. He looks at them as “hardly desirable companions for decent folk.” While he might feel out of place and alone in Ulapur, he has a home in Calcutta. When he talks to Ratan about his family and the life he used to lead in Calcutta, it shows the temporary nature of his loneliness. It ceases upon approval of his request for transfer. He has overcome his lonely condition when he tells Ratan he is “going home.” While he does experience a small “pain in his heart” at leaving, it is temporary. As “the wind filled the sails” of the boat taking him home, the postmaster left the village and his loneliness behind like bodies in the “outlying burning-ground.” For people like the postmaster who have a home, loneliness is temporary.
Ratan’s loneliness is far more permanent. Ratan is an orphan who has been forced to embrace loneliness as a permanent part of her being in the world. When the postmaster asks Ratan about her family, she has only fragmented memories of what it was like to belong. Her relationship with the postmaster is a potential cure for the loneliness that has plagued her for so long. She listened so intently to the stories of his family that she began to connect with them “as if she had known them all her life.” Her “little heart” became filled with the postmaster. She waited on him diligently, tended to him when he was sick, and learned the alphabet because of the opportunity to forge connection. When she asks to accompany him to Calcutta, she is crushed when he deems it “absurd.” The story’s ending shows Ratan roaming around the village “in a flood of tears” hoping for the postmaster’s return. His absence makes her loneliness a permanent condition.