In what ways does a community positively or negatively affect an individual?
Communities are circles for people to feel connected and safe. Communities are supposed to be places that people can interact with and share similar values. However, this is not always the case. In my AP Language class we read the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
For those of you that haven’t read the book, The Scarlet Letter is about Hester Prynne, a young lady living in a conservative Puritan society who has an affair with the minister. She immediately becomes an outcast and becomes shunned by everyone, including her close neighbors. Hester’s community didn’t support her because she went against the Puritan values which is acceptable for a community to do so if they have specific guidelines. However, her society takes it further and brands her with the Scarlet Letter A on her chest to forever remind her of her guilt.
As the novel progresses, it Nathaniel Hawthrone talks about how lonely and isolated Hester’s life is and how Hester looks to the forest for support and comfort because that is the only place she can be herself without anyone one judging her. At one point in the novel, Hester takes off her scarlet letter in the woods and at that moment she feels freedom from all the confinement that she had faced for several years. The Scarlet Letter A is a symbol of her community publicly oppressing her. When Hester wears the scarlet letter, she is where her community wants her to be:an outcast. The community does its best to shred her individuality and partially succeeds. Hester lives in isolation, works in isolation, and raises a child in isolation. Through a period of seven years, she does her best to fit in with the community doing noble and charitable acts, but even then her community looks down upon her. Although hester is alone, she still manages to live her life with out complaining. She volunteers, helps out her community and tries to make good public appearances. Although everyone does their best to surpress her individuality, she pushes them aside and goes by her own ways.
During most of the novel Hester’s community responds to her needs in a negative way, but near the end in chapter 24, they finally began to accept her because she admits to her sin. Her community recognizes the hard work and effort she put in to building her character and her trying to do good by volunteering.
In contrast to Hester oppressive community, Lori Arviso Alvord’s community was one that influenced her positively and helped her adjust to her surroundings. The essay “Walking the Path between Worlds” is about a Native American Navajo student who goes off to Dartmouth college far away from her community. Lori’s Navajo tribe had a strong sense of connection and bonded through rituals and gatherings. When Lori was placed on Dartmouth campus, there were only 50 Indians that attended that college and so she felt ignored and invisible to everyone else. For the first year of college Lori experimented with different cliques in didn’t feel like she belonged. In her second year she made friends with other Native Indians and created her own tribal-community. Lori described her Native American group at Dartmouth as a “solid community that did almost everything together…we were friends, lovers, rivals, enemies. I had been part of many other groups since then, but nothing compared in intensity to the experience of being a member of the Native American student group.”
Communities can offer a great deal to individuals to help guide young students to their future careers. When communities offer young students opportunities to volunteer and gain experience in certain fields, students can get hands on experience in work environments similar to that of their future career. Thirteen year old John Prueter volunteers at the hospital at an assisted-living home in Hampton Township, Detroit. As Prueter takes advantage of the opportunities offered to him, his community affects him positively by giving him the experience he needs to go in the field of nursing. I believe that this is one of the most important things a community can do for an individual. Whether it be that the community offers internships, volunteer opportunities, or even part time jobs, it helps shape a person to who they shall be in the next few years and guides them to their future career.
The people I surround myself with are my community. I am heavily involved in my community and volunteer at my local mosque which helps bring out inner individuality. I’m a baker and I have a passion to create, decorate, and design. I was able to do just that last year by starting a foundation called Baking for Benches where I, along with my friend, baked goods and sold them to fundraise money to get new benches at our mosque. My mosque is the main string that ties me with my family and friends. Over there we have basketball competitions, carnivals (where I won third place in a cake decorating competition!) and food festivals. When I pray there I feel connected with God and thank Him for placing me in such a blessed society with surrounded by so many people who love me and have a positive influence on me.