The Community and the Individual

Puritans in the 1600s are known for their strict standards of morality regarding affairs in life and especially in sexuality. If one was caught in an affair or if an affair became known, punishment ranges from shunned by the entire community to execution.  The Scarlet Letter is a great example of the strict Puritan standards and beliefs.

In the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne was shunned from the townspeople because of her adultery with Dimmesdale. Hester was mocked, scorned and jeered at publicly by the community, but she didn’t cower away, she stood on her ground and faced them bravely. She, an individual, against an entire community. While reading the Scarlet Letter, a question came to my mind, “Of the two, individual and community, which is more powerful and would cause a greater impact?” If someone had asked me that question, prior to reading the Scarlet Letter, I would’ve answered the community. For as long as I can remember, I had always believed that the community was more powerful than an individual was, simply because a community consists of many individuals.

Of the two, individual and community, which is more powerful and would cause a greater impact?

Hester Prynne is an example of how the individual is more powerful than the community as well as causing a greater impact. The community despised and neglected her in the beginning because of her sin, and forced the Scarlet Letter a (adulterer) upon her bosom. However, she overlooked the townspeople’s thoughts towards her and concentrated her thoughts and energy on her embroideries as well as raising Pearl. Gradually, she began to earn the townspeople’s respect, as they then rename the Scarlet Letter on her bosom, from “Adulterer” to “Able”.

“It is our Hester – the town’s own Hester – who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick so comforting to the afflicted!” (Hawthorne 151).

In addition, Dimmesdale, after the brief meeting with Hester in the forest, was encouraged to confess to the scrutinizing public that he is Pearl’s biological father. Hester, as an individual was able to influence Dimmesdale, who, prior, felt threatened and intimidated by the community to keep mum about the affair, to come out freely.

“The minister’s own will, and Hester’s will, and the fate that grew between them …“ (Hawthorne 205).

However, these examples are only from fictional novels, an example that would answer this question precisely would be from an example in real life.

From the Language of Composition Chapter 6, Rodriguez, author of Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood recognizes that an individual, to a certain degree, is more powerful than a community is. By blindly ensuing and executing the demands from a community, it would result to one not being able to comprehend, behave accordingly as well as think for themselves.  Joining a community, an individual would be stripped from their own uniqueness as well as their identity, as they would be referred as a community.

In Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood, Rodriguez included remarks made by bilingual educators that “children lose a degree of ‘individuality’ by becoming assimilated into public society” (312). In other words, the Bilingual Educators believes that when an individual is absorbed into a community, their individuality as well as identity would be bereaved.

An additional example from real life is Essena O’Neill.

Essena O’Neill, an Australian-born Instagram model acknowledged that social media was fraudulent. On October 27 2015, O’Neill took it to her social media accounts (Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) to broadcast that social media wasn’t real, and it was all enveloped in lies. O’Neill deleted over 2,000 pictures that she believed “served no real purpose other than self-promotion” (Essena O’Neill) and edited 96 of her posts with recent genuine captions.

Selfie posted by Essena O’Neill on Instagram. She edited the caption in October. Photo: Instagram and from

The deleted pictures, updated captions and recent post stating that social media was fake, had led Essena O’Neill to become famous worldwide, as the Social Media Model Who Quitted Social Media.

Her followers were supportive of her and proud that she opened up and was truthful:

 “I respect her for doing this. It takes a massive amount of courage to have this level of sincerity, wisdom and honesty. To speak about the raw truth and act upon it when so much is at stake. Social media, at a certain point, becomes absolute madness. It is the most unglamorous thing in the world. If you hate her message, ask yourself if you’re afraid of the truth in it.” – Zahra S.

“You’re just awesome. Authenticity for the win. Thank you for bringing some realness into this fake world.” – Coyote W.

With her latest post announcing that she had relinquish from social media and declaring that social media is unreal, she was able to help other fellow social media friends realize that the illusion of having copious followers would generate happiness was utterly fictitious. O’Neill’s wakeup call to fellow on Instagram had led to several other social media celebrities to come clean.

My answer now would be the influence of an individual is clearly greater than that of a community.


– Jackie


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