Thoughts on Individulal VS Community

Are we defined by our  own individualistic interpretations, or by those of the community?

This was the question that lingered over my consciousness while reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famed novel, The Scarlet Letter, which takes place within a Puritan society in colonial America during the mid-17th Century.

I personally thought the answer to be our own individualistic interpretations because a community is crafted to represent a certain ideology, and is therefore biased when it comes to defining a specific person.

The Scarlet Letter is an ignominious ‘A,’ which is stitched upon the bosom of a Hester Prynne, representing her adulterous affair with another villager (Later known to be their own Reverend, Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale), and for this very transgression, the towns people scorn her a heretic, labeling her as a “brazen hussy” who had chosen to “make a pride out of what they, worthy gentlemen, meant for punishment”  (Chapter 2, Paragraph 12) by embroidering the ‘A’ in so bold a fashion as she had done. These are obviously the community’s interpretation of Hester: A sinful, deceitful woman who is no more than a common hussy, thus is their view of her in the introduction.

What I find peculiar is Hester’s reaction to their scorn-She accepts it! As shown in Chapter 5, Paragraph 3, “she compelled herself to believe-what, finally, she reasoned upon, as her motive for continuing a resident of New England-was half a truth, and half a self-delusion, here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; And so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; More saint-like, because the result of martyrdom”.

It is an interesting arrangement; Rather than on many occasions, here the interpretations of the community and the individual intertwine. The community sees Hester as a sinner, and deserving of public shame and acknowledgment of her ‘Satanic’ ways, and she accepts her punishment. However, their perceptions soften gradually as she shows herself to be a healer for those in need. They even reference her to “A self-enlisted Sister of Charity” who has been “so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted (Chapter 13, Paragraph 5)!” What we see here is an interesting shift in community opinion; This emphasizes the sway in community thoughts, but can those of the individual be persuaded so easily?

Apparently not, according to Hester, who firmly declines this hand of friendship, even while : “Meeting them in the street, she never raised her head to receive their greeting. If they were resolute to accost her, she laid her finger on the scarlet letter, and passed on.” -Chapter 13, Paragraph 5.

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 PhotoⒸ2006by Monceau (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 

Rather then follow up with their viewpoint, however, the narrator chooses to depict Hester in a sort of saintliness, as noted when describing her from a quote which I had taken previously in this analysis, to being “more saint-like , because the result of martyrdom.”

Although I do admire Hawthorne’s striking depiction of the Individual VS Community, I feel that he comes off a little extreme when referencing the protagonist to a saint while the townspeople deem her a heretic-Therefore, lacking a middle ground, which would be ever the more beneficial for the readers in determining where Hester stands.

In addition, there lays speculation over Hester’s choice in categorizing herself as a sinner rather than flow in the direction of the community’s changing views of her. I believe this illustrates a prominent relationship found within our own lives;  An individual who is the object of the community’s grievances accepts their criticism with a heavy heart, yet when they turn an approving eye upon her, she does not transition accordingly.

Why? Why does she insist on wallowing in her regret when she could be reclaiming her reputation by socializing amongst her neighbors?

Simple. Let me explain by drawing a rhetoric triangle. I’ll label the three angles as Speaker, Subject, and Audience. The Speakers in the introduction are the townspeople, the Subject their condemnation of Hester’s adulterous affair, and the Audience is Hester herself. This a relatively affective triangle;  The townspeople are perturbed by the scandalous affair that has shaken the threshold of their Puritan community, so they broadly state their views on Hester and that ignominious ‘A’ stitched upon her bosom  to her face, and Hester acknowledges her sin and holds herself accountable.

As the novel proceeds, however, we find the rhetoric triangle to be, well, a line in fact, rather so. This line, which connects the Speaker (the townspeople) to the Subject (Hester’s disposition, which is her newfound ‘saintliness’) stands alone. The Audience (Hester) has chosen to sever ties with choosing to be cordial to the Speaker by refusing to admit to the Standing Subject. Hester has integrated herself  so far into the contemplation of her sin, the community’s interpretations have receded substantially within her beliefs to the point where she is expected to comply with their previous assumptions. In other words, the rhetorical triangle was a little too effective, to say the least.

This is unlike the experience from an essay I have read, titled Just Walk on By, written by Brent Staples.

Staples, a black man, discusses his experiences while suffering under the prejudice of being labeled a criminal in various circumstances.

He writes:

“The fearsomeness mistakenly attributed to me in public places often has a perilous flavor. The most frightening of these confusions occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I worked as a journalist in Chicago.

One day, rushing into the office of a magazine I was writing for with a deadline story in hand, I was mistaken for a burglar. The office manager called security and, with an ad hoc posse, pursued me through the labyrinthine halls, nearly to my editor’s door. I had no way of proving who I was. I could only move briskly toward the company of someone who knew me.”

As Staples continues, it is relevant that he is set on proving this prejudice false rather than comply with the image it has depicted of him; Which is completely incoherent to who he really is.

He says: “And on late-evening constitutionals, along streets less traveled by, I employ what has proved to be an excellent tension reducing measure: I whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers.

Even steely New Yorkers hunching toward nighttime destinations seem to relax and occasionally they even join in the tune. Virtually everybody seems to sense that a mugger wouldn’t be warbling bright, sunny selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.It is my equivalent of the cowbell that hikers wear when they know they are in bear country.”

Obviously, Staples is not another Hester; He defines himself from his own interpretations, which is more definitive of his character than the first impressions the community has on him. Therefore, it is clear that in this case, the individual’s viewpoint is more accountable than the community’s, which I admire in him tremendously, especially since he does that in a way that is comforting both to him and those who may be wary of him on the streets.

This theme  of prizing the individual over the community also stands in Judith Ortiz Cofer’s essay: The Myth of the Latin Woman.

This ‘myth’ of Latin women is that Latina women, she finds, particularly Puerto Rican ones, are subjected to sexual harassment and are demeaned on a wide scale, often branded as “hot tamales” who are “sizzling” and “smoldering.”

She writes: “From conversations in my house I recall hearing about the harassment that Puerto Rican women endured in factories where the “boss men” talked to them as if sexual innuendo was all they understood and, worse, often gave them the choice of submitting to advances or being fired.”

Cofer, like Staples, is determined to abort this disgusting practice in which the community unfairly judges the women of her ethnic group based upon a stereotype that belittles them to either as a “whore, domestic, or criminal.”

She says: “We cannot change this by legislating the way people look at us. The transformation, as I see it, has to occur at a much more individual level. ”

In other words, Cofer sees that the way to raise awareness against these prejudiced beliefs is reverse the roles of the Speaker and the Audience on the rhetorical triangle; She believes that Latina women must combat this myth assume the definitive role, to speak of who they really are, and to have the rest of society listen to them. Only then, will they be respected and treated equally.

The Scarlet Letter has answered my question in the sense that it provided me a base for comparison among other Community vs. Individual Relationships with the rhetorical triangle, but to rely on that source alone for uncovering the truth is difficult; With the public saying one thing, and the narrator preaching another. Therefore, reading other works of literature  that illustrate a concrete stance on the question, such as the essays I have listed above, allowed me a greater clarity in formulating my response.

So Are we defined by our  own individualistic interpretations, or by those of the community?

I believe we are truly defined once each party is given an equal slot of time as a Speaker and as the Audience. The community and the individual must be hear on an equal basis, and only then, is it necessary to compare the third corner of the triangle, the Subject (Which is the definition of the individual or a group), to see whose analysis matches up fitter. More likely it is the individual’s though, I’d say, because then again, who knows yourself better than you?

-Heather

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A Reflection on Society, Nature, and How We Think

It seems to me that there is a growing rift between intellectualism and the factualism-The difference standing that intellectual thoughts are derived from a disciplined mind that absorbs knowledge and makes it his/her own, whereas factualism is concerned with the one-time attainment of  (often times meaningless) facts, which in today’s world, takes place on the internet, primarily social media sites. Forth over, this undermines an appreciation for what little intellectual sources are left in this increasingly connected world, where topics are made known of, but are not, in the truest sense, known to the very core. These sources, from my experience, have been found continuously by entering an intimate relationship with solitude; One area superb in furthering this relationship between the abstract corners of the human mind (Wherein, creativity is likely to reside) and one’s own self is found in nature, which I will delve into a particular instance by demonstrating this complexity  below……….

The murky silence hung thick in the air and had enshrouded the campsite in a layer of fog that seeped through the overhead pine tree branches, and descended to embrace the damp soil.

Here I sat on this rock on the edge of a dry bank, with moss clinging to its scraggly granite surface, and observed the sun drowsily awake from its slumber, heeding the divine call: “Let there be light!”

It was 5:45am at Blooms Creek Campground, Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Unlike my hometown, to where I am greeted daily with an outpouring of selfies, twitter fights, flashes of the latest IPhone and luxury cars-here they remain unknown, an alien presence.

There are those who may attribute  my choice as an undertaking to what they perceive to be as loneliness-the unthinkable fate of being deprived of these so-called “necessities”- as a sign of social abandonment.

Phrases such as “I couldn’t live without twitter” or “Why go if there’s no wi-fi?” are  commonly used in rejecting this apparently absurd notion of there being some beauty in seclusion.

My difference of opinion therefore labels me as an outcast among today’s herd of millennials. I am in my element full-throttle in nature; It remained obvious as I sat upon that scraggly granite rock a few feet from a dry river-bed where foliage covered it, a blanket of scarlet, gray, and a variety of shades of green, that my views of serenity differed from those of my peers.’

With no one else  in sight, no depiction of social activity deemed hereditary to anthropogenic nature, I remained by myself.

‘Alone’ is stitched upon my breast, visible to naught the naked eye, but to my present disposition amidst the flora and fauna.

There were other campers residing soundly in their sleeping bags, but they remained foreign-lifeless-in my eyes amidst the bountiful  array of nature before me; Where  birds  flitted to and fro amongst the tree tops, where sunlight peeked out through the cracks and crevasses from the tufts of silver-tinted clouds, and kissed the moist soil, where the squirrels peered out in acknowledgment of  the new day, whose morning rays ignited their chestnut fur ablaze in sheens of fiery copper.

Within this Garden of Eden, I am alone, yet with my thoughts beside me. They sing with the meadowlark high above the leaves that litter the forest floor,  from the top of the steeple-crowned tops of the redwood trees and beyond: “Finally, I am here.”

Within this small plot of soil, isolated from any worldly desires and influences, I had entered a portal unbeknownst to anyone, from my understanding, other than myself.

And I haven’t the slightest regret over my preference to nature.

All is calm. There lies no need to  rush, to lord over momentary interests and trivial matters such as a celebrity’s wardrobe malfunction or the latest Apple product; areas that consist of a superficial exterior envelope a dim, lifeless core.

This forest, within this small plot of virgin earth is unstained, untamed, and pulsing with life; My thoughts are left to wander amongst Her creatures freely as if I were Daedalus and given wings to fly, far away from the obscure tower that constrained my spirit.

With a whisper of a smile wreathed upon my face, I inhaled the sweet air infused with  pine sap, damp soil, and that musky scent of bark from the redwood trees, which lorded over the expanse of wilderness as if proclaiming their natural rights to it, flaunting the enormity of their attributes to the gods among the clouds.

Suddenly, a cool breeze danced by their quivering leaves, which were swept away, and drifted,

down,

——–down,

—————–down,

————————–to the forest floor.

One lands upon my face. Its fall leaves an imprint of a smile across my countenance; I am Alone, yet have been given the wings to fly-and fly I will. Toeing the granite bricks o’er the valley that meets the rising sun- I take the plunge.

Now gracious reader, I would suggest watching this here video

Before reading this, you may have viewed it with an air of boredom. Or you may have not. But I wish that by watching it now, the serenity I felt intertwines with your sensitiveness to the content presented, and that you attain the admiration and peacefulness I had felt that morning in that very area (Which I, by the way, highly recommend visiting! :D)

-Heather

An Apology by the Writer and her Narration

So before I give the audience  my English narration, there is something I’d like to say. First of all, if you’ve come to read this post, congratulations! Over the last summer, I’ve scarcely  (If at all) showed a morsel of dedication for this blog or its followers. And when school came around, I decided to pass off my AP English homework as an interesting  to read about. Unacceptable. If anything, my followers are only repaid in long, droning paragraphs with the speaker (me!) ordering them to find a motive or any literary devices within its content. For that, I am truly sorry. I do not wish this to be a student/boring teacher relationship, but rather of one between friends.

Secondly, I apologize for the lack of photos. Squiggles of ink on the computer screen alone do not constitute a story that would spur on creativity and divergent thinking. I will try to obtain (original) photos in the near future, but it will take some time.

Lastly, I’ve noticed how most of these posts are about me; boring, insignificant, me. This is not only disrespectful towards the audience in failing to acknowledge them, but to the purpose of using a blog in general: Which is to share something meaningful to the world. And I have utterly failed in accomplishing that simple task over the last few months. I will plan on improving on this in the near future, if I have any followers left.

Now with that being said, here’s my English narration essay.

“Ignorance is bliss,”- Thomas Gray

 

“I felt ______ when………..” is the topic of this week’s essay, which is to be a narration.  Times New Roman font, twelve size, and double-spaced? Probably. Use “I” as a speaker? Obviously. So what should I write about? Maybe my vacation to the redwoods, observing a foggy morning in solitude?  Sounds good. With a sound agenda in mind and a plan to format my essay, I set to work.

 

“The murky silence hung thick in the air and had enshrouded the campsite in a layer of fog that seeped through the overhead pine tree branches, and descended to embrace the damp soil…..”

 

“A poetic introduction is always a good start,” I think to myself, sipping a glass of  iced tea, gazing at the  various squiggles of ink on the computer screen.

 

After a half an hour, I take a break by checking up on one of my favorite Christian  blog sites. There’s a new post. One glance, one tap of the mouse, and the subject is all too obvious to comprehend; ISIS, the so-called Islamic State of Iran and Syria, has struck again, with its gruesome beheadings, rapes, and mass shootings of thousands of innocent people, Christians and Muslims alike,.

 

This time however, its victims are children.

 

One little girl, who looked to be approximately six years old wore a white lace dress and Mary Jane shoes. She looked ready to go to a party with her friends, where they would spend the day giggling, playing games, and munching on sweets.

However, she can’t anymore-her head has been hacked off her body- leaving a bloody, rotting stump in its place.

There are many like  her, as I soon find.

Yes, many more have been posted to numerous sites online by the Islamic State, who proudly parade these photos, these atrocities to humanity, all across the internet.

 

I can hardly bear to stomach it. Let alone mindlessly view films of these barbaric crimes. So I click out of my tabs-leaving only my essay draft open- I resume writing.

 

“Momentarily, a meadowlark bravely defies this solitude by emitting its casual yet eloquent song…”

 

After an hour, I only get as far as a few words.

I am writing a narrative, an instance meant to capture so small of an occurrence in so great detail.

 

A narrative is an essay designed by the speaker, and naturally, writing is meant to reflect the speaker’s thoughts and observations. Though with this in mind, the image of the headless corpse of a child continually haunts me-while I am here-devoting my time and effort to romanticizing the western meadowlark.

 

There are other reasons for writing, I realize- and in dire circumstances, such as the genocide of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Syria by Islamic extremists, it is often times more useful as a tool to speak for others, rather than of personal interests.

 

“For the dead and the living, we must bare witness,”- Elie Wiesel

 

“I will not stay silent, nor, will I remain silent,” I say to myself. Courage to those depraved of ignorance! Ignorance of suffering, of hatred, of utter remoteness and terror, there is no puzzlement over the truth of the old saying: “Ignorance is bliss.”  In ignorance, I realized, we are masked from reality, and therefore remain oblivious to horrendous crimes. They say history repeats itself and its true; Our world is tilted on an axis towards repetition, and sooner than later, we can expect to see another Crusades.

 

So I began to write. Into the wastebasket goes my former draft; my fingers fly  across the keyboard in a blur of whizzing thoughts and emotions that soar through the intergalactical dimensions of my consciousness. I will lend my voice, I will lend my writing to those without a witness. I will speak out of the injustices that have been inflicted upon my fellow Christians, my fellow human beings, whom live in a country so far away, yet whose message urgently demands it being known. I refill my glass of iced tea, take a sip, and began typing away. A profound introduction is always a good start.

 

“I felt_____when…..”  was the topic of this week’s essay, which was to be a narration, a type of essay defined by the speaker’s personal thoughts and observations; I however, aim to accomplish the exact opposite. When people read this essay, they may think that it’s a story about me, a girl passionately against ignorance and crimes against humanity. Yet I don’t think that it’s a story about me; I don’t think it’s a story about me at all.


-Heather