The people around you influence who you become

How does a community affect an individual?

A community affects an individual in many different ways and especially one of which by contributing to an individual’s identity. It can instill worldly values, biases, viewpoints, etc. upon them. Some people disagree with this, they believe that people individualize themselves and do not conform with what their society upholds. But I don’t.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading The Scarlet Letter with my English class and also found a lot of material that answered this question. In this novel, as we all very well know, Hester is ostracized from the community in which she resides in because she has committed adultery and is with child, the mysterious father being the man with whom she committed the affair.  Because she lives in a Puritan society that is very attached to rules and traditions, they take her action of adultery very seriously as it goes against their morals. Now despite this isolation from her town, she continues to live in the community even though she could have easily taken off and moved away because she wants to make up for her sins.

“In all her intercourse with society, however, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it… She stood apart from mortal interests, yet close beside them, like a ghost that revisits the familiar fireside, and can no longer make itself seen or felt.”

This quote above shows how Hester is still somewhat affected by the isolation from her community and how she longs to part of something bigger instead of just being by herself and Pearl.

However as time wears on, Hester continues to live her life and does charitable works, ignoring the ridicules of those around her. She eventually is able to walk around with a sense of pride (of a sort) and has developed this independence because she has gotten used to people singling her out and being isolated from the community. We can see that she still has this strength and goodness to her that the community was not successful in wrenching from her, which shows how even though she has been wronged by everyone around her, she didn’t let all their hatred get to her or let the trials and tribulations she went through change her.

world_in_hands_by_s2sts-d3kfa6r

©2011 by S2sts [CC BY 3.0]

 

Here’s a little anecdote that I think is fitting to this subject: Upon entering high school, my mom told me to pick good people to be friends with, people that have good morals but are still fun to hang out with, people who accept you for who you are and don’t force you to do the things that you are not comfortable with or do not want to do, people who can inspire you to do good things, to be a good person. People who have kind and true hearts.

The freshman me thought this statement was silly and I always wondered why she told me this but now I know why. It’s because who you choose to surround yourself with end up affecting who you are as a person, whether or not you like to admit it. I thought she was wrong. I thought I would be strong enough to resist peer pressure but I’m really not, as previous mistakes in my past have taught me. Now, I tell my freshman sister the exact same thing because I don’t want her to fall in with the same crowd because I know, through experience, it can be detrimental to her character.

apeng scarlet

Photo by Caitlin Pham.

This quote from the Five Short Novels of Stendahl gives further evidence that a community affects an individual in by instilling different values upon them because it states that one cannot gain character from being alone or in solitude. When you are in solidity, you can still learn things like how to sew, knit, draw, math, science, literature, history, and so on and so forth but you don’t build character. It shows that people need interaction with other human beings to develop a personality because if you don’t ever talk to anyone else or isolate yourself from a community. This goes to show that the people you associate with help you to build character because you are communicating with them and you are learning new opinions, views, and values that you might also support or even oppose. You know what they say: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

However, a community can also affect an individual negatively as shown in this quote from by English textbook The Language of Composition:

“The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them.” (289)

Due to biases against the African-American race that the community held, the Africans began building up feelings of frustratation (as they should) because they are so unfairly and unrightly treated. They have done nothing wrong and yet they are treated as the inferior race, as though they are worse than the gum of someone’s shoe. This, of course, is bound to result in some feelings of antipathy since no one gets good feelings from being treated like they are lower than low. The mean actions and words that the people within the community are directing at the African-Americans could even lead to horrible, sad things like suicides because it might cause them to believe that they are actually the lowest of the low. I mean if you tell someone something x enough times, they might just start to believe.

That being said, I believe that a community is a major contributing factor to the identities of the people residing within it. I think that where you live and the people that you choose to surround yourself with will end up, eventually, in some way, shape, or form, influencing you, whether it be in a significant or minor manner.

-Caitlin

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