What is the role of nature in "The Postmaster" by Rabindranath Tagore?
Nature occupies a central role at the start and at the end of the story. At the outset of the story, nature is described in a condition as posing challenges to the postmaster. In order to convey how out of place the postmaster feels in Ulapur, nature is used to accentuate the disconnect he experiences: "He felt like a fish out of water in this remote village. His office and living-room were in a dark thatched shed, not far from a green, slimy pond, surrounded on all sides by a dense growth." The "slimy pond" and "dense growth" helps to communicate the postmaster's fundamental disconnect to the world of Ulapur and his yearning to go back to the metropolitan setting of Calcutta. As the rainy season continues on, the postmaster falls ill, almost blaming the natural conditions in Ulapur for his illness. Here again, one notices how weather and natural conditions seek to enhance the disconnect that the postmaster feels in Ulapur.
The ending is where nature acquires a particular thematic significance to the story. Upon reflecting how Ratan's heart must be broken, and hearing "the great unspoken pervading grief of Mother Earth herself," nature takes a critical role in the text:
At one time he had an impulse to go back, and bring away along with him that lonesome waif, forsaken of the world. But the wind had just filled the sails, the boat had got well into the middle of the turbulent current, and already the village was left behind, and its outlying burning-ground came in sight.
The combination of the "turbulent current" and his own powers of rationalization help the postmaster overcome his momentary feeling of pain in his actions towards Ratan. This is accented with "the swift flowing river" that continues on, regardless of human affairs. The postmaster uses nature as a way to enhance a justification for why he did what he did. The postmaster uses nature as a means to deny, to forget the transgression he committed. The postmaster ends up using nature, the same force that troubled him so much in Ulapur, as a means to make himself feel better about his actions. In this, the reader sees an added significance to nature in the text.