While reading The Scarlet Letter, we were tasked with answering a question on the topic individual vs. community. The question that I intend to answer is “How is and individual better than a community?”
The Scarlet Letter is a great source for answering this question. One of the main parts of the book is how Hester Prynne is ridiculed for the crime she has committed. The members of the community, which are the villagers, constantly judge Hester even though they only know one thing about her. But, Hester, as the individual, overcomes this and does not let it get to her. Hester is a great example of how individuals are better than a community because they are free to do as they wish without the restrictions of a community.
Ellen Goodman states “We have nieces and nephews left dangling like participles from other lives and stepfamilies entirely off the family tree. Our reality is more flexible and our relationships more supportive than our language.”( p316). In our current day society it is more common for families to break apart, and relationships to be left undefined. There are people that are left with relationships that mean a lot to them, but no idea as to whether that person is a part of their extended family. An individual does not define their relationships by the title that person has but by what that person means to them. The titles are something that communities have created, as another way to control the individuals.
In many ways communities have created several rules or “societal norms” to control individuals.In this day and age people have lost the ability to choose their friends. In “Facebook Friendonomics”, Scott Brown discusses how communities have used Facebook to control individuals. They have an unending list of friends on Facebook that just keeps getting longer. It has become the status-quo to have a long list of friends that you don’t actually talk to. As Brown states “We’ve lost our right to lose touch”, you no longer have the feeling of losing contact with that one friend from high school, and society says you can’t unfriend them. “We scrawl ‘Friends Forever’ in yearbooks, but we quietly realize, with relief, that some bonds are meant to be shed, like snakeskin or a Showtime subscription. It’s nature’s way of allowing you to change, adapt, evolve, or devolve as you wish”. This is yet another example of societal norms that force individuals into doing something in a certain way. These are the things that make individuals better than communities. An individual has the freedom to do what they wish when they wish to do it. A community decides what the individuals can do and when they can do it.
While discussing this topic in class I realized that this theme of how individuals are better than communities can be seen everywhere in our society. One of the most common places I saw this theme was in songs. Two main songs that I thought expressed individuality well are “Secrets” by Mary Lambert and “Try” by Colbie Caliat. Both of these are very popular songs. “Secrets” is a song that talks about being yourself and not allowing society to control you. Lambert song says “They tell us from the time we’re young/ To hide the things we don’t like about ourselves/ Inside ourselves/ I know I’m not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else/ Well I’m over it/ I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are”. I listen to this song all the time and I feel that it has a great message. It encourages people not to hide behind what society wants them to be, but to break out and be themselves. “Try” by Colbie Caliat talks about not trying so hard to meet the societal norms and not trying to be something you aren’t. “You don’t have to try so hard/ you don’t have to give it all away/ You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up/ You don’t have to change a single thing”. Caliat and Lambert are two of the many artists that have written songs that express individuality and breaking out of the restrictions that a community sets.
So, through The Scarlet Letter, essays by Brown and Goodman, and songs by Caliat and Lambert. I have found an answer to my question.
How are individuals better than a community?
Individuals are better than a community because they are unique and free. Communities try to set restrictions on individuals to control them. But, and individual has the ability to break free from these restrictions and truly be themselves.
Photo @2014 by Marsel Minga [CC-by-2.0]