Describe the character of Ratan in Rabindranath Tagore's "The Postmaster".

Quick answer:

Ratan, in Rabindranath Tagore's "The Postmaster," is depicted as a sensitive, affectionate, and idealistic girl who is likely an "untouchable" in Indian society, enduring poverty and discrimination. Despite her challenging circumstances, she is loyal, hardworking, and dedicated in her role assisting the postmaster. Ratan's trust and idealism cloud her judgement about the postmaster's intentions, and her innate dignity and loyalty illuminate the story despite the harsh realities of her life.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ratan is a sensitive, affectionate, and idealistic girl. She accepts her lot in life with a good nature. Moreover, there is every indication that, in Tagore's story, Ratan is an "untouchable." In Indian society, untouchables (or Dalits) are often consigned to the dirtiest jobs. These untouchables often endure living under extremely unsanitary conditions. Because of their low status in Indian society, untouchables live impoverished lives. They are (like Ratan) usually illiterate because the education system discriminates against them, causing large populations of school-aged Dalits to drop out of school.

In the story, Ratan considers herself fortunate to be in the employ of the postmaster. Ratan's docile subservience is characteristic behavior for members of her caste. The text tells us that Ratan has "borne many a scolding from her master without complaint." Ratan does not consider her employer's often brusque and rude behavior strange. In fact, she accepts such ill treatment as typical of what members of her caste must endure. 

Ratan does not realize (until it is too late) that the postmaster has little intention of accepting her into his family. Ratan's actions and words demonstrate her innately trusting nature. It is this nature that clouds her judgement regarding the postmaster's true character.

In the end, Ratan's idealistic and trusting nature shames the postmaster and almost prompts the latter to go back for the "lonesome waif, forsaken of the world."

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ratan is an orphan.  She lives her life in this village, pretty much as an orphan.  She is alone and few pay attention to her.  When the Postmaster enters the villages and is at a loss to properly function, he takes Ratan on as sort of an assistant.  In this, Ratan proves that she is quite skilled and possesses much more talent than originally thought.  She is dedicated to her work.  Whereas the postmaster dislikes his work and expresses this dislike, Ratan is genuinely immersed in what she does and how she helps the postmaster.  When he offers to teach her how to read and write more to pass his own time of boredom in the village, she proves to be a model student, one who is eager to learn and with a mind like a sponge to absorb information.  Ratan is also quite caring, demonstrated throughout, but shown well when she takes care of the postmaster when he is sick.  She had always shown a level of devotion to him, helping prepare his meals, getting his pipe, and other items such as that.  Yet, it moves to a more profound level when she takes care of him while he is ill.  Ratan's loyalty is shown in the end when she asks the Postmaster to take her with him.  Her dignity and loyalty speak loudly, even more passionately than the callous and rather cruel attitude of the Postmaster.  In the end, while he is the title, I feel the story is more about her and that there are more Ratans in a nation like India whose voice might have been validated in Tagore's short story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the character analysis of ratan & postmaster in The Postmaster of rabindranath tagore?

I think that the basic elements of both characters is that one enters a setting with little in way of assistance and another has lived in this setting with little in way of assistance.  The Postmaster enters the village in fairly dire conditions, trying to cope with the challenges of village life.  He is educated, well versed, and very must "together" from an exterior point of view.  His location in the village is a challenging one, an assignment that he does not necessarily enjoy.  Ratan, by contrast, is an orphan, whose only world has been the village and a sense of isolation that accompanies abandonment in the process.  There is a need in both of them.  The postmaster needs a diversion, indicated by the fact that he really has never been alone in his life.  Letters from his mother indicate this, that he had been attended to and always around people.  Ratan had never experienced this and the presence of the postmaster allows her to feel a sense of need, when the two of them share conversations late into the night, or when she helps him with his various duties.  Ratan is shown to be extremely willing in terms of her state of being with the postmaster, learning to read and write in order to be closer to him and to share companionship with him.  By contrast, the postmaster is extremely uncomfortable in the village and with his work.  Tagore seems to be constructing a portrait of someone who is perceived as "higher" in social orders that is a bit inferior on a moral and ethical level to the individual perceived as "lower" in the social order.  This lack of moral stature is proven at the end when she asks to go with him and he can only scoff derisively at such a notion.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the character of Ratan like in "The Postmaster" by Tagore?  

In the story, Ratan is loyal, diligent, trusting, and compassionate.

As the postmaster's helper, she is often at her employer's beck and call. Yet, Ratan never complains; she never hesitates to put aside what she's doing in order to tend to the postmaster's needs. When he becomes sick, she tends to him lovingly and faithfully.

She at once stepped into the post of mother, called in the village doctor, gave the patient his pills at the proper intervals, sat up all night by his pillow, cooked his gruel for him, and every now and then asked: "Are you feeling a little better, Dada?"

Ratan's unselfish ministrations on behalf of her employer highlight her diligence and faithfulness. When he teaches her how to read, she is so diligent and dedicated in her efforts that she finds herself working with double consonants before long.

Additionally, Ratan's willingness to sit and to listen to the postmaster while he expounds at length about his family is a demonstration of her patience and compassion. In all his monologues, Ratan never fails to enter into the spirit of her employer's reveries. In her heart, his family has become hers.

Last, but not least, Ratan's loyal and trusting character is demonstrated when she asks the postmaster whether he will take her with him when he leaves. When the postmaster doesn't reply in the affirmative, Ratan is heartbroken. She has always trusted in his care for her, and now, she is bewildered by his cruel indifference to her plight. In grief, she summarily refuses the postmaster's offer of financial remuneration. As the story ends, we begin to understand how Ratan's trusting and naive nature has brought her immense grief.

Alas for our foolish human nature! Its fond mistakes are persistent. The dictates of reason take a long time to assert their own sway. The surest proofs meanwhile are disbelieved. False hope is clung to with all one's might and main, till a day comes when it has sucked the heart dry and it forcibly breaks through its bonds and departs. After that comes the misery of awakening, and then once again the longing to get back into the maze of the same mistakes.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on