What is the moral of the "The Postmaster" by Rabindranath Tagore?  

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Nobel Prize winning writer Rabindranath Tagore created the genre of the short story in Bengali literature. Although his family was rich and had vast land holdings, Tagore spent much of his life amidst common village people and frequently wrote of the hardships, sociological bonds, and heartfelt emotions that shaped their lives. The moral of "The Postmaster" is that despite the various social strata in which people find themselves by birth, loneliness and the need for companionship and love are common to all. However, it is very difficult to overcome the strictures and limitations that society has imposed on such companionship.

The postmaster, for instance, is far away from his native Calcutta, where his family lives. He feels out of place and thinks to himself:

Oh, if only some kindred soul were near— just one loving human being whom I could hold near my heart!

The irony is that in his next breath he calls for the servant girl Ratan, who is always near him, has no family and secretly falls in love with him. As a salve for his loneliness, and to give himself something to do, he begins to teach her to read. She in turn nurses him back to health when he becomes ill. However, he cannot take the step of acknowledging her devotion because she is of a different class or caste. In his loneliness he decides to leave his post and return home. Despite their feelings for each other, the social barriers cannot be overcome, and an offering of money cannot assuage her grief. In the end, he considers going back for her but does not. Thus a potential romance becomes instead a tragedy. Tagore laments, "Alas for our foolish human nature! Its fond mistakes are persistent." In other words, the tragedies of the human heart occur again and again and people never seem to learn from mistakes that others have made.

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A story does not have to have a moral. A short story, according to Edgar Allan Poe, the father of the modern short story, a story has to produce a "single effect." Tagore's story "The Postmaster" certainly does that. The effect we feel is deep pity for the poor orphan girl who was so devoted to the postmaster. That feeling stays with us long after we have read the story, and if we go back and read it again we will experience the same strong "effect" or emotion all over again. If there is any moral intended, it is probably: Life is cruel, or life is unfair. Perhaps what is important is that we feel love for the girl and that we share this love with all the other people in different lands who also feel love for the same girl. The moral of any story has to be deduced from its "single effect."

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