Hey guys, just to let you know, this post will be more academically centered than other posts! However, like most of my other posts, will be relevant to most people’s lives– individuality versus community.
I took the two flower pictures at the Butchart Garden and my friend’s parents took the other two from a sleepover. I edited them together. The different colored flower symbolizes individuality with underlying conformity of species. And the pictures of my friends and I represents a community of close friends and also shows our differences to some extent (because we’ll pretty different, but that doesn’t stop us from being great friends, aka a community of Chinese School friends).
***Note: This post will contain spoilers for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter.***
The struggle between differentiating individuality and society is a long-term struggle that conflicts many people and groups. How far can one go before one’s personal ethics or beliefs aggravate others in community? How far can a community go to quell differing beliefs?
Before reading The Scarlet Letter, the class and I picked four essential questions, one class question and three individual questions regarding individual versus community. So with that in mind, I chose my individual questions with just a little inkling of what The Scarlet Letter was about and just went off of what seemed most relevant in society.
- How does a community affect an individual?
- Can individuals thrive in communities and when does an individual become community?
- How does community affect personal ethics?
- To what degree do differing thoughts break up community?
Now to address “How community affects an individual,” which is a broad question that can be taken in many directions, I’m going to reference A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood: Aria by Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez details his view and experiences assimilating to the American language. His transformation is similar to the transformation of Hester and Dimmsdale and their assimilation into the Puritan society and in a lesser extent their acceptance of their sins. Rodriguez states: “At the age of five, six, well past the time when most other children no longer easily notice the difference between sounds uttered at home and words spoken in public, I had a different experience.” Here Rodriguez states that he is able to see both sides of society longer than most of the people surrounding him because he is coming from a different perspective– a native Spanish speaker who has been speaking mostly Spanish at home and throughout his life. Similarly, Hester acknowledges her sins and displays it clearly in society. She is the one individual, the outcast of society, while Dimmsdale fakes his way through it. Later, when Dimmsdale comes to terms with his sins, he delivers an impactful speech to the Puritan community about what he and Hester see– falseness. In chapter 23, the novel states Dimmsdale’s announces to the procession as “his subject, it appeared, had been the relation between the Deity and the communities of human kind.” In addition the novel questions: “Were there not the brilliant particles of a halo in the air about his head?” The novel contrasts Dimmsdale’s new found perspective on the community because like stated throughout the novel, they all wear a mask and pretend to be a heavenly to appeal to the thoughts of predestination. Contrary to society, Dimmsdale and Hester were special individuals who see this side of society and embrace that it is there. Likewise, Rodriguez eventually embraces the sharpness of the American accent and assimilates into it.
1. Can individuals thrive in communities and when does an individual become community?
Unfortunately, this novel does not quite apply to this question like I would have liked…
2. How does community affect personal ethics?
In this novel, the affects are immense! Everyone in the Puritan society, emphasized in the book especially when the townspeople are critical of Hester and clearly stated by Dimmsdale in the conclusion, has sinned. Ethically, they are all corrupt in that they are hypocrites. They scorn and shun the one who’s faults are revealed and continue living their lives sinning and never embracing them.
On the other hand, Hester who is made an outcast sees this side of society. (Also, in the “Conclusion,” chapter 24, people come confess their sins in the end because a few individuals, Hester and Dimmsdale, who saw this side of society changed the community for the better.)
3. To what degree do differing thoughts break up community?
Like the first question, the novel does not really dance upon this concept.