What is the Relationship Between an Individual and a Community?

What is the relationship between and individual and a community? A community is a group of people who have, “A common feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” And an individual is someone who, “Is not part of a group because of their own goals or interests.” In The Scarlet Letter, the idea of and individual vs. community comes up multiple times throughout the story. Hester is seen as the individual who has to try to survive against the rest of the colonists, a community, who use her when needed, otherwise they throw her away as an outcast. For an individual to help a group, they have to think about how they can accomplish their own goals while still improving the community as a whole. History shows that it has always been hard for an individual to live a good and faithful life without becoming part of a community. In The Scarlet Letter, the community is the colonists that live with Hester. Hester is the lone individual who is secluded from society. The community only gives attention to Hester when they need her amazing sowing skills. He talent of being an amazing seamstress was used for funerals, babies, and fashion. In chapter 5 of the book, Hester’s: “Handiwork became what would now be termed the fashion. Whether from commiseration for a woman of so miserable a destiny; or from the morbid curiosity that gives a fictitious value even to common or worthless things…” The community didn’t care about her sin when they needed he talent for their benefit. But once they received what they needed, they again shunned her from their community. This shows the relationship between the community and the individual in The Scarlet Letter; there was only a one way benefit that  supported the community and never the lone individual. And the community didn’t think to care that this was they only way Hester was surviving and making money, while they all had businesses and each other as support in case something horrible happens and one of them goes broke or something. Also, the individual, Hester is never allowed to participate in a joyous occasion for the community. As Hester’s’ products and, “Skill was never called in to embroider the white veil which was to cover the pure blushes of a bride.” This is when they all remember Hester’s sin and decide to bring their society back together. Hester Prynne has no benefits as being the individual in this individual vs. community relationship.

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the Letter from Birmingham Jail in response to a public statement directed to him by eight Alabama clergymen. The eight Alabama clergymen wrote the public statement to denounce King Jr.’s work and call it “unwise” and “untimely.” As Martin Luther King Jr. writes to these men, he is saying that for these human rights to be granted to African-American people the white people must join with the human rights activists. Something that really caught my eye in this letter was when he says that an African-American’s main: ” Stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” This specific part from the entire letter stands out to me because it takes an objective side to the whole argument of the relationship of an individual and a community than that in The Scarlet Letter. In the Letter from Birmingham Jail the one in need of help from the other is the community. The community needs the individuals who want order and peace but don’t want to stand up for justice. Martin Luther King Jr. is more frustrated with these type of people because they don’t say it, but they are basically rejecting you, your community, a your ideas. This rejection by individual support leads to a loss of supporters to join the community that needs everyone to help them. This letter shows that sometimes the community needs the support of the individuals. In “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” from Walden by Henry David Thoreau, he talks about his wish to live in the woods. As he ponders about how it would be to live alone and secluded in the woods he comes across the idea of only having individuals and no communities. He comes to t conclusion that this would not work because if everyone had their own ideas, no one would make roads and other innovations important to life. Thee would be no agreements amongst any people who wanted to innovate. Throughout all my research, I’ve figured out that there will always be one side who will attain the upper hand. However, it will not always be the same side, as I showed you in various examples. After all, a community and an individual are very closely related. A community is up of a group of INDIVIDUALS who share a certain idea or interest. Thanks for reading! -Hamza Ayub

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