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Analyzing Ratan's Character in "The Postmaster"


Ratan, in "The Postmaster," is portrayed as a loyal and innocent village girl who forms a deep emotional attachment to the postmaster. Her character reflects simplicity, devotion, and a yearning for familial bonds, highlighting her vulnerability when the postmaster eventually leaves, shattering her hopes and deepening her sense of abandonment.

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Who is the character Ratan in "The Postmaster"?

Ratan is a simple, spontaneous, and innocent girl in Tagore's short story The Postmaster. A teenage orphan, she lives in the village of Ulapur, in Bengal. She does the household chores and keeps the postmaster company. She engages him in conversation and shares family stories.

The finely crafted narrative describes the emotional bond that Ratan develops for her master. While nursing him to health after an ailment, the naive girl assumes that she has become an integral part of his life. The myth shatters when all "Dada" offers her is money and recommendations.

Tagore does not define the relationship between Ratan and the postmaster, but the reader does get the impression of an unreciprocated affection. Ratan's loneliness and despair reflect the plight of many young, village girls in 19th century Bengal when it was common for girls to be married off by the age of ten years.

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What makes Ratan a compelling and likable character in "The Postmaster"?

I think that Ratan is so likable and compelling for a couple of reasons.  She is an orphan, and this would have to be one of the primary reasons she is such a compelling figure.  She enters the story and is in the world without anyone.  Her vulnerability is on display for all to see and in Ratan, one recognizes immediately the idea of being able to connect to another person who has nothing.  Ratan's loyalty to the postmaster is another reason she is so likable.  She is selfless in how she devotes herself to the postmaster.  Her commitment to his own comfort is noble, making her an almost transcendent figure in a world of contingency.  The fact that her desperation is on display in begging to be take away from a world of pain and to live only with the postmaster is an instant where one recognizes clearly what it means to live in the sole light of another.  Ratan is driven to devote herself to another and this makes her compelling.  When she is rejected, we recognize what it means to be marginalized, silenced by a social order that is uncaring.  At this moment, we identify with her because her pain and loneliness seeking out her "Dada Babu" represents our own sad moments where we are without recourse and without anyone.  In  her isolated condition, we see the most painful moments of our own being. In this, Ratan is so compelling and likable because she is like ourselves in our most fragile moments.

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What are your feelings towards Ratan in "The Postmaster"?

I think that this is going to be a matter of personal opinion or preference.  For my bet (and I think for Tagore's), Ratan is the focus of the short story.  While the title might refer to her opposite, I think that she is the focal point.  I think it's hard to not develop feelings of attachment and loyalty for Ratan because she demonstrates these feelings so powerfully.  From the outset, her characterization is one that shows loyalty, care, and commitment.  Ratan represents that quality in people that transcends politics, social affiliation, and the pessimism that runs rampant.  She is an orphan who devotes herself to the Postmaster's care.  She has no ulterior motive.  She takes care of him, appropriates his family as her own, and she finds purpose in the care and support of another person.  It is here where I think that Ratan gains the most amount of support, in my mind.  Her rejection by the Postmaster is something that is destined to happen, a stunningly painful reminder that sometimes the good does not triumph and that honor does not win out.  She is rejected and is left to wander without any philosophical justification to make her feel better, as the Postmaster is able to use.  All she is left with is the "faint hope" that the Postmaster is to return.  I realize that to embrace Ratan is to embrace someone who has been done wrong and someone who is not, on face value, a "winner."  Yet, I think that she endears herself to me because of this, because there are times in life when all people are akin to Ratan, having to live with the rejection of others.  The only comforts are "the snares of delusion" that encompass us as they do Ratan.  I think for this, alone, Ratan is a character towards whom I cannot but help feel loyal.

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