Commonplace-Book Entry: “The Postmaster” by Sir Rabindranath Tagore, How Close the Narrator Relates to Ratan

“The master said: ‘You need not be anxious about my going away, Ratan; I shall tell my successor to look after you.’ These words were kindly meant, no doubt: but inscrutable are the ways of a woman’s heart! Ratan had borne many a scolding from her master without complaint, but these kind words she could not bear.”

Tagore, Rabindranath. “The Postmaster.” Mashi and Other Stories, Macmillan and Co. Limited, 1918, page 167.

I think that this quote shows how the narrator relates to Ratan, since it seems to both relate to her distantly and closely in these sentences. The narrator expresses Ratan’s feelings to the audience first in a way that is distant from her and tells these emotions in a more general way, as the narrator speaks of women’s hearts instead of just Ratan’s heart. Especially  using the word “woman” makes this feel as if the narrator is not just referring to Ratan, and this also makes the narration feel even more distant from her, as she is being buried beneath the generalization of all women in the world, since Ratan is usually referred to as “girl” throughout this story as opposed to “woman”. However, the narrator then relates more closely to Ratan’s individual feelings, referring to her personal experience with the postmaster and how she had taken his words in the past in comparison to how the change in his words when telling her that she should not worry since he will tell his successor to look after Ratan after he leaves, makes her feel in this moment. Therefore, I think that the narrator’s relation to Ratan does not get too close to her personal thoughts and feelings, since sometimes the narrator decides to make judgments on Ratan’s emotions based on what the narrator knows or thinks they know of other people generally, and brings about these judgments first to the audience’s mind before even beginning to focus on Ratan as an individual. 

“The Postmaster” by Sir Rabindranath Tagore Commonplace-Book Entry: A Narrator Who Knows and Sympathizes with Ratan

“After a while Ratan rose, and went off to the kitchen to prepare the meal; but she was not so quick about it as on other days. Many new things to think of had entered her little brain. When the postmaster had finished his supper, the girl suddenly asked him: ‘Dada, will you take me to your home ?’

The postmaster laughed. ‘What an idea !’ said he; but he did not think it necessary to explain to the girl wherein lay the absurdity.

That whole night, in her waking and in her dreams, the postmaster’s laughing reply haunted her ‘What an idea !’”

Tagore, Sir Rabindranath. “The Postmaster.” Mashi and other stories, Macmillan and Co., 1918, page 166-167

This passage shows that the narrator knows about all of Rattan’s actions throughout the story, as well as her inner thoughts that she has, since it describes what she does both around the postmaster and by herself, as well as when there are a lot of thoughts swarming her mind and what she even dreams about, so this suggests that the narrator of “The Postmaster” is not the postmaster or any other character in the book that may be observing Ratan’s actions, but a third person narrator that is not part of the story and whom has access to the actions and consciousness of both of the main characters of this story, which are Ratan and the postmaster. The only person in the story that could have access to all of Ratan’s actions and thoughts would be Ratan herself, but the narrator does not use the word “I” when talking about Ratan nor use her language throughout the whole story, and since Ratan would not be able to know all of the postmaster’s actions and thoughts as well, which is also shown in this passage when the narrator says that the postmaster did not feel the need to explain how odd Ratan’s request to him was. It is also implied that the narrator may be older than Ratan and/or has sympathy for what she goes through, since it refers to her and her brain as “little,” which could mean that the narrator views Ratan as a young girl who is not done growing yet, but also sees her as a nice girl since referring to her as “little” multiple times could show that the narrator cares about Ratan in some way, or that the narrator thinks that the amount of thoughts going on in Ratan’s head might be too much for her to handle and would easily overwhelm her.

The Postmaster: Narrators relation to Ratan: Bryant Magdaleno

“Alas, the mistaken human heart! Its delusions never end, the laws of reason enter the mind after much delay, disbelieving incontestable evidence it embraces false hop with both arms and all its might to its breast; in the end one day, severing the umbilical cord and sucking the heart empty of blood, it flees there is then a return to one’s right senses, and the mind grows restless again to embrace its next delusion.”

This text appears after Ratan told to be weeping and hoping for the postmaster to come back but as the narrator states there own opinion on the matter for they deny Ratan her thoughts and calls her foolish for it. The narrator tells a cynical truth as they put it and frame Ratan to be in delusion only willing to believe what she wants to believe. In this instance the relation of narrator to Ratan is one almost antagonist to the hope she has, the narrator denies not only Ratan the idea of a happy ending but also the audience and call them out for expecting anything but there cynical take on the matter.

Tagore, Rabindranath. The Postmaster. Macmillan, 1918, page 164.

“The Postmaster” and the narrator’s relation to Ratan

“But Ratan had no philosophy. She was wandering about the post office in a flood of tears. It may be that she had still a lurking hope in some corner of her heart that her Dada would return, and that is why she could not tear herself away.”

The narrator’s relation with Ratand and the Postmaster is shown here. While the Postmaster is utilizing philosophy to help him cope with his inevitable death, Ratan is left with no coping mechanisms. Ratan is alone like she has been most of her life as an orphan.

Tagore, Rabindranath. The Postmaster. Macmillan, 1918, page 169.

The Postmaster; the Narrator & Ratan

” ‘Well, Ratan,’ perhaps he would begin, ‘do you remember anything of your mother?’ That was a fertile subject. Ratan partly remembered, and partly didn’t … She called to mind a little brother that she had – and how on some bygone cloudy day she had played at fishing with him on the edge of the pond, with a twig for a make-believe fishing-rod. Such little incidents would drive out greater events from her mind.”

Tagore, Rabindranath. The Postmaster. Macmillan, 1918, page 161.

The Postmaster: The Narrator’s Relation to Ratan (Where Understanding and Pity Meet)

“She entered noiselessly, and looked silently into her master’s face for orders. The master said: ‘You need not be anxious about my going away, Ratan; I shall tell my successor to look after you.’ These words were kindly meant, no doubt: but inscrutable are the ways of a woman’s heart!”

Tagore, Rabindranath. The Postmaster. Macmillan, 1918, page 167.

The Postmaster; the narrator’s relation to Ratan

“When he got in and the boat was under way, and the rain-swollen river, like a stream of tears welling up from the earth, swirled and sobbed at her bows, then he felt a sort of pain at heart ; the grief-stricken face of a village girl seemed to represent for him the great unspoken pervading grief of Mother Earth herself. At one time he had an impulse to go back, and bring away along with him that lonesome waif, forsaken of the world.”

Tagore, Rabindranath. The Postmaster. Macmillan, 1918, page 168.