The Postmaster Questions and Answers

Rabindranath Tagore

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting The Postmaster questions.

How does the "The Postmaster" leave us with a newfound conception of what it means to be "advanced"?

For many different reasons, the label of "genius" can apply to Tagore. His work possesses a unique capacity to peer into the life of human suffering. At a time when so much of the nation was caught up in the fervor and passion of the Indian Independence Movement, Tagore once wrote, "Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom for the tree." Tagore was insightful in the complexities of human nature. He understood that political and social movements do not guarantee that all human beings will experience happiness. Tagore was ahead of his time in asserting that pain and cruelty cuts across all boundaries, becoming, in a sad sense, the universal quality that we all share.

This perceptive reality is seen in "The Postmaster." The ending in which Ratan and the Postmaster have to separate speaks to Tagore's understanding of modern "progress." The Postmaster is able to rationalize the separation, staring at the water and, in effect, drowning out the pain he has caused another human being at his actions. He is able to take sanctuary in his intellectualism, his sense of progress, and his sense of philosophical rationalization. Ratan has nothing to comfort her. His sense of progress trades off with her sense of happiness. Tagore's story demonstrates how the act of creation for one involves destruction for another. 

The psychological dimensions of this condition applies to a social one, as well. The postmaster is able to go back to Calcutta, an urban setting, while Ratan remains in the village. In this statement, Tagore masterfully demonstrates one of the challenges that India still faces. Modernization and advancement is not a statement that applies to everyone. Rather, a division emerges in which the nation is advanced in its urban centers, while its rural and villages are left behind. This gulf was something that Tagore articulates in the story and is still seen today. When the progress and advancement of India is extolled, it usually refers to its urban centers of Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. Many villages in India are still immersed in the condition in which Ratan lives. Tagore speaks to what progress and advancement mean when it only benefits the few. The postmaster is able to experience this, while Ratan is effectively denied it, a paradigm that still resonates in India today. It is Tagore's genius to recognize this in his writing and envision this reality in the India of today.