Harrison Bergeron Theme Essay
Harrison Bergeron, a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, highlights the perils of governmental control, coupled with people’s ignorance. Vonnegut goes ahead to predict the results of such a move. The most prominent theme of Harrison Bergeron is the lack of freedom in American society. Vonnegut also explains how the loss of civil rights is catching with Americans. What is the result of all these? There is a high probability that America will end up in a dystopia. In summary, the loss of freedom and civil rights would lead to America’s dystopia are the main messages of Harrison Bergeron. The essay briefly discusses the topics of the story and the questions raised by the author. Some of them are illustrated by the quotes from the text to demonstrate its tone and the literary devices used in the story.
Central Idea of Harrison Bergeron
As aforementioned, Americans love freedom, and Harrison’s actions evidence this; he escapes from prison, goes ahead to remove his handicaps, and finally tries to influence those around him. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so that you can rest your handicap bag…?” (Vonnegut Page 216).
The government chained this handicap bag around George’s neck; however, Harrison is telling George to ‘rest’ it, as a sign of rebellion and push for freedom. Nevertheless, in Harrison’s world, this freedom is no more, and people cannot make choices because they are above average in everything, and as a result, they are disabled. For instance, the dancers are cloaked to ensure that “nobody would feel like something the cat drug in” (Vonnegut Page 216).
The fact that all people are above average in everything takes away the freedom of choice and hampers everyone in the new dystopia America. The plot unfolds around the main theme of Harrison Bergeron. The main idea of neglect of freedom of choice is also expressed in the article of Clark. The author argues that “Uninformed citizens are left vulnerable to the political exploitation of special-interests” (Clark, 1). That proves that, though Americans love freedom, their freedom of choice is restricted by lack of information.
The loss of civil rights is another contributing factor to this dystopia in America. Everyone is equal “due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution…the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General” (Vonnegut Page 218). In this state, the ‘Handicapper General’ ensures everyone is equal, and he or she has no right, including the right to life. No one in the nowadays society is truly free, as it will be shown in the next paragraphs of the essay. Harrison Bergeron’s character George says, “Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out” (Vonnegut Page 216).
George here talks of the consequences of removing the ‘handicap’ that the government has placed around his neck, evidence of loss of civil rights. George even watches her daughter die on television, and he cannot complain leave alone filling a suit. All these events resonate well with what is happening in America today. Manson discusses the issue of loss of civil rights by American citizens in one of his articles, which is devoted to mind control.
There is multiple “evidence for government involvement in attempts to control people’s behavior” (Manson, 1). The mind-control conspiracy theory proves the intrusion of the government to people’s personal lives and even to their consciousness. The violation of fundamental civil rights defined by the Constitution is apparent.
Vonnegut insinuates that if what is happening in contemporary America is not countered, then a dystopia in America is inevitable. That is the central idea of Harrison Bergeron. Even though Vonnegut wrote this story many years ago, he had seen what was lurking; for instance, after the 9/11 events, congress passed the US Patriot Act that allowed security agencies to probe personal issues.
That resonates well with “the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General” (Vonnegut Page 216). Even though the loss of freedom in contemporary America is not as bad as in Harrison’s society, American authorities are slowly taking away freedom.
For instance, smoking regulations placed public places is a move of its kind. To this, Vonnegut would say, “Some things about living still aren’t quite right. The ‘rightness’ of living is disappearing as people lose freedom and head to the new dystopia America. Indeed, the freedom of Americans is gradually lost.
According to Manson, even the right to individual opinions is violated. As a result of the government, activity is such that “a person simply becomes a pair of eyes designed to observe and transmit data.” This serves as evidence of American citizens being deprived of their rights for freedom.
This analysis essay outlined the central idea and the main theme of Harrison Bergeron. In summary, Vonnegut tries to highlight how government control would slowly convert America into a dystopian nation. Despite the love that Americans have for freedom, Vonnegut is afraid that this is being taken away, and people will have “a little mental handicap radio in their ears tuned to a government transmitter” (Vonnegut Page 218). That would take away freedom, and civil rights would suffer the same fate for those who rebel against the set ordinances will have, “ten seconds to get their handicaps back on” (Vonnegut Page 219).
The overall effect in this situation would be a nation where all people are equal according to government standards hence dystopia. The take-home point in Vonnegut’s short story is, people should come out of their ignorance, take action, and correct government errors; otherwise, America will be a place of parity without dreams and competition hence dystopia America.
Clark, J. “Regulating Government” The Encyclopedia of Public Choice. Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media, 2004. Credo Reference. Web.
“Harrison Bergeron” and real life Essay
Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” tells a story about a fourteen year old “child” who is somewhat of a prodigy. In a world where people are held back because of their talents, and their intelligence is marred by the social rules of all people being the same, Harrison refuses to succumb to the pressure and wants to break free (Gelder, 2009).
The main character can be greatly compared to my cousin who is almost 20 years old. He is also a very talented person and likes music. His ear is very well adjusted to sounds and melodies, so when he hears some song or is creating some of his own, he is able to understand what is needed to fill in the gaps or make the melody more beautiful (Werlock, 2009). Another similarity between Kurt Vonnegut’s character and my cousin Phil is that they are both very analytical.
Very often, I find Phil sitting behind his desk and writing out his thoughts. He seems to be eager to figure out what the world is, why people have lives and understanding. I find it his talent to have a “feeling” towards something. When he thinks about a problem, he does not use logic first. He comprehends the situation and listens to himself letting his inner self to tell him how he feels about a subject.
It is interesting to note that he is not quite aware how this process takes place, but it is for certain that he is able to distinguish between useless and important information which later becomes key to a the problem at hand. He is also very knowledgeable of people’s psychology and inner desires, so when he thinks about someone he is able to discern the real behavior from fake one. I think that he has a gift of predicting certain things because all the problems that he encounters, he solves.
As Harrison felt pushed down by the government, and prevented from reaching his goals and dreams, so does Phil. Sometimes, he engages in conversations with my father where they discuss why the government is so unwilling to allow people to reach their heights and become everything they can be.
Often, they talk about conspiracies in educational institutions and work places, citing the fact that the information that is presented is purposefully faulty, and people are “dumbed down”, so that they show no resistance to the authority of the government. Phil always feels emotional and wants to change something. This is another similarity between Phil and Harrison Bergeron because they are both trying to change the world (Farrell, 2009).
Phil is thinking about publishing a book, but it would be extremely difficult because the things that he wants to write are very controversial and challenging. He is sure that his greater purpose in life is to make the world better. His thoughts always revolve around making people realize that whatever the governments or media say is not what is most valuable in life. He wants to bring people down to a more “natural” existence where there is greater interaction between people and the world.
The parallel between the two people, one fictional and one real is very obvious because both seem to function on a higher level. Nature is still a very mysterious thing, and it shows its power and secrets through people.
Farrell, S. (2009). Critical Companion to Kurt Vonnegut. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.
Gelder, G. (2009). The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology. San Francisco, CA: Tachyon Publications.
Werlock, A. (2009). Companion to Literature: Facts on File Companion to the American Short Story. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.
Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron Essay
The 20-th century introduced the industrial spirit to almost every country around the world. The change in the mode of production and a switch to an unfamiliar social system was quite difficult for most nations to put up with. High capital requirements, inherent to the industrial era, forced the majority of countries to create the governmental pool for resources concentration, thus shifting their social and political systems towards an authoritarian type. The amount of power and authority, acquired by administrative structures, was enormous, which made social transformation available. Following this, so-called socialism, with its principles of equal consumption and social equality, was employed in some twisted forms. As a result, the citizens of those countries turned into hostages of their government, or, at least, that is what was observed from the outside.
This significant change was reflected in the literature of that period. A new type of society – capitalistic one – was discussed there, yet, the principal amount of works were dedicated to the author’s vision of probable future, which seemed utterly unpredictable. Such works, like Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (2017) and “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut (1961), made a considerable contribution to this subject by developing their own perspective of the future. It usually included adverse circumstances and negative outcomes of a government’s poor decisions. Despite the time gone by, no one has a clear image of what might happen; that is why the topic is still actual. This paper will analyze one of the books mentioned, namely “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, and provide a reasonable opinion on its content.
Summary of the Novel
The story takes place in 2081, 120 years after the date of the book’s release when the new amendments to the Constitution have been introduced. According to those standards, there can be no outstanding features in any citizen. All of them should be equal in the sense that some inherent characteristics ought to be hidden by masks when it comes to beauty or heavy weights if someone is healthy or well-built. The laws are enforced by various government agents, watching the citizens all the time and punishing those who would not obey.
Then the author illustrates a family, which is, by definition, is standard and, as usual, watches a ballet on television. The only difference is that unlike the other families, this one has just lost one of its members – the son, named Harrison, taken against his will by the government. He is a clear representation of everything forbidden in this society: intelligent, attractive, and incredibly brave; the usual mechanism can not suppress the boy. Consequently, the only way to eliminate such a threat is to isolate him.
Despite that loss, the family does not seem to grieve – the couple feels a bit sad, yet, the reason remains unknown. The memories about their son and his arrest were taken away by standard methods – loud radio devices controlled intelligence. All of a sudden, the TV translation breaks, and Harrison’s escape from prison is announced. Following that, the boy shows up on the stage, tears his and ballerina’s handicaps apart, and makes the orchestra play better. He dances to the music with the ballerina, his “Empress,” as the boy proclaims her. Soon after that, Diana Moon Glampers, the General of the Handicapper, breaks in and kills both. The translation stops, and George, Harrison’s father, comes back from the kitchen, unaware of those events, to find his wife crying. The only thing she could remember is that something sad had happened on the TV.
The story itself is rather short, yet, the main characters are indeed important, as each of them represents a particular social group with its common features. However, the protagonist, on the contrary, is not that primitive; in fact, he is the most outstanding individual anyone can think of. Harrison is an attractive, smart, and courageous young man capable of destructing the whole system if not eliminated for good. As a result, in an attempt to take over the leadership in the country, he is being taken to jail, yet, he does not give up on the idea and escapes soon after that.
The role of Harrison Bergeron in this story cannot be underestimated. Not only he is the key character, but he is probably a hero of the time depicted. Some researchers note that “In a future America where being average is the professed ideal – although Vonnegut comically demonstrates that the de facto standard of “average” in the story is far inferior to simple mediocrity – Harrison is superhuman. He is not just a revolutionary, but a Nietzschean Übermensch, cut from the same cloth as Ayn Rand’s John Galt.” (Reed, 2015, p. 56). In the context of the time when no one is eager to struggle with blatant violation of a right to be someone, not a philosophical zombie, the protagonist is an expression of freedom of choice.
The next character, which is rather important, is the protagonist’s mother, Hazel. In contrast to her son, she represents the average citizen of America, meeting all the primitive requirements. According to Reed (2015), “Let us pause to consider Hazel. Because she has no handicaps, we already know a great deal about her: she is not strong, lovely, or intelligent. She’s so average, and even her name is the eye color between brown and blue. Her natural mental state is equivalent to George’s handicapped mind. She is the ideal citizen in Vonnegut’s dumbed-down future America” (p. 57). In spite of Hazel’s simplicity, she feels upset about the loss of her son, though she does not recall why, which is probably an illustration of illusive public sorrow.
The last but not least main character is George Bergeron, who is, according to his description, in a position between the two previous characters. He is not as primitive as his wife, yet, not as great as his son. Considering his intelligence, the government forced him to wear a handicap in order to suppress his mind. His immanent abilities contradict the belief in the social order, which results in complete neglect and acceptance of his son’s death (Hild, 2017).
Some critics might appreciate this book for a satiric demonstration of possible future outcomes, yet, there is another opinion on the subject. According to Reed (2015), “Vonnegut’s nightmarish system … is a parody of what Americans feared might be wrought by losing … conflicts with Sino-Soviet socialists, a … fear that inflicted far more damage … than communism itself” (p. 50). Therefore, one may consider this story as a threatening, yet, a rather childish illustration of Americans’ worst nightmares. Quite an interesting thought to be considered is that the author is much more excited about the idea of equality itself, neglecting its underlying basis. In fact, the egalitarian society described is only a consequence of the system, which is rather unstable in a country like the US, where the entrepreneur spirit is a common phenomenon. However, there is no doubt that the author and the story itself should be valued for a considerable amount of thoughtful analysis in a field where everything is yet to be discovered, namely, the future.
The novel is worthy of respect due to several reasons, including the most important issue that it discusses, namely, the future prospects of humanity. However, the book’s significance is emphasized by a sociological analysis, which is translated by diverse characters that clearly represent different behavioral patterns. While some may consider the book to be a reflection of fear of socialism, the others appreciate it for what it is – a thoughtful and meaningful assumption of humanity’s prospects.
Hoff, H. (2017). Fostering the “intercultural reader”? An empirical study of socio-cultural approaches to EFL literature. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 63(3), 443-464.
Orwell, G. (2017). 1984. Natrona Heights, PA: General Press.
Reed, B. (2015). Technologies of instant amnesia: Teaching Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” to the millennial generation. Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice, 8(1), 45-69.
Vonnegut, K. (1961). Harrison Bergeron. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 21(4), 5-10.
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Literature Analysis Essay
Admittedly, literature has a great power over people. Satire is one of the most potent tools of literature. Authors use satire to reveal the wrongs of the society they live in. With the help of satire authors manage to express their opinion on some matters and make people think of essential issues.
Thus, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. focuses on such important themes as equality and control. The author emphasizes that equality can be even dangerous as it may make people vulnerable. Vonnegut creates a very specific society with the help of satire. The author manages to make people think of the essence of equality and possible hazards associated with the society of equals.
According to Vonnegut being equal does not mean being happy, which is one of the major themes of the story. Thus, the times when “everybody” are “finally equal” are not that cloudless (Vonnegut 1). Interestingly, the author stresses that equality is against the nature as different people come into this world. People are different.
Some are “blindingly beautiful” (Vonnegut 4). Some could “have awed Thor” (Vonnegut 4). Some could simply think and understand things. However, the majority of people in Vonnegut’s society have some kind of impediment which prevents them from thinking critically.
Notably, to reveal the theme of differences between people Vonnegut uses a variety of literary tools. Thus, when depicting beautiful ballerinas, he uses epithets “extraordinarily”, “blindingly” beautiful. Vonnegut resorts to an allusion to depict Harrison who could be the leader of the different people.
The author portrays Harrison as an extremely strong person who could be even stronger Thor himself. Mentioning the god of thunder, Vonnegut emphasizes the strength and handsomeness of Harrison. Admittedly, the use of the allusion makes the story more expressive.
Likewise, the author uses quite expressive means to describe the majority of people who have “a perfectly average intelligence”, i.e. people who cannot focus on any important thing (Vonnegut 1). The epithet “perfectly average” is somewhat paradoxical. This contributes greatly to creation of the satirical effect. Of course, one of the most striking depictions of people’s equality in the society was the portrayal of the announcer who “like all announcers” had a “serious” speech defect (Vonnegut 3). Therefore, the author stresses that equality could only mean equal impediments as progress presupposes development and competition.
Nonetheless, people in Vonnegut’s society strive for equality. The author employs various tools to reveal the society in a satirical way. Thus, the author mentions that equality is guaranteed by the Constitution (Vonnegut 1). Of course, it is a biting satire as no man’s law can make people truly equal, especially physically equal.
The author notes that people were kept from “taking unfair advantage of their brains” (Vonnegut 1). It goes without saying that the word “unfair” produces the most satirical effect. The protagonist has to endure constant audio torture. Beautiful people have to wear masks. The author enhances the idea of the deliberate equality with the help of repetition at the beginning of the story:
Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. (Vonnegut 1)
The words “nobody” and “anybody else” are repeated three times to stress the idea that all people should be equal. The writer makes people accustomed to the idea of such kind of complete equality. Remarkably, the idea of the complete equality is itself satirical. The author uses such kind of exaggeration to express his idea concerning impossibility of equality.
The author also uses satire to express his view on hypothetical future. Thus, Vonnegut does not believe people can be equal as diversity is one of the primary characteristic features of the nature. The writer stresses that people can only artificially make people equal by hiding their faces, distracting them from thinking. At the same time, the author believes that there still will be people who can rise.
Harrison is the one. This god-like teenager dares to oppose the order. He inspires someone (one of the ballerinas and some musicians) to become different. Notably, the author portrays the picture of the rise in detail. He also does it quite poetically. The two young people reach the ceiling while performing their divine dance.
Of course, it is not about dancing. The author exploits this symbol (the symbol of soaring) to articulate the idea of divine sparkle in each person. The author suggests that the difference is what makes people strive for something bigger. The difference makes people strive for development. The difference makes people evolve.
Notably, this poetic passage contributes to creation of the satirical effect as well. The soaring of the two beautifully different people is abruptly stopped by gunshots. The two great people are killed by those who strive for equality. What is more, “perfectly average” people simply forget about the soaring and the cruel murder. The author admits that even though it is impossible to make all people equal, it is quite easy to distract people and prevent them from thinking critically. Vonnegut reveals his ideas on the total control.
The author believes that complete equality can only be beneficial for those who want to control nations. The author’s satire is aimed at making people understand that being different is just fine. More so, the author stresses that being different means being free.
It is important to note that the story is not about social or gender equality. It is not about racial issues. The author reveals one of the major wrongs of the contemporary society. The author uses satire to make people understand that they are quite vulnerable. Vonnegut shows that there are attempts to make people think ‘equally’. There are attempts to make people have similar ideas and opinions on this or that matter. Now people are being distracted from really important issues.
Notably, the author uses television as rather a controversial tool. On the one hand, television is one of the tools of distraction. On the other hand, it is used to rebel. Thus, the author believes that media can help people become different and find the truth. However, the author also admits that media are quite potent means of proliferation of certain (‘equal’) ideas. At any rate, Vonnegut creates a hypothetical society which is aimed at making contemporary people think. The author uses satire to evoke strong feelings in people.
On balance, it is possible to state that Vonnegut employs various tools to create a satirical effect. The author uses satire to reveal one of the major wrongs of the contemporary society, i.e. people’s indifference and inability to see what is really important. Vonnegut conveys his ideas concerning equality and control. The writer shows that equality is a kind of premise for total control over people. Therefore, the author notes that being different means being free.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Harrison Bergeron. Ted Nellen, 2012.
How is Harrison Bergeron a hero?
People often have a preconceived notion that a character is either evil or good. As people get older they get wiser, and they realize life is not black and white. In the story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
one of the main characters, George, wears a handicap. A handicap is a device to stop him from thinking to much. George’s son, Harrison, comes on a ballet program on the t.v, but because of the handicap, George doesn’t recognize him. Harrison is rebelling against his own handicaps and rips them off,encouraging others to do the same. But then the head of the device administrator comes and shoots Harrison, killing him. Although because of the handicap, George doesn’t remember his son or anything that happened. Harrison Bergeron is a revolutionary hero because he helped the citizens grow to their true potential as well as being a symbol and figure for rebellion . Lastly he was a hero because he was willing to put his life on the line to fight against the absurd laws that destroy the individual to the point of handicapping society’s potential. He is determined to be who he is and set and example of honesty for others.
The first reason why Harrison Bergeron is a hero is because he helped the fellow citizens realize their endless possibilities. One example of this is when Harrison told the musicians to play music. The author shows him helping people grow by comparing the music before and after the handicaps, Music!” he commanded. The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, “Play your best,” he told them (5). The musicians go on to play music that is cheap, silly and false until Harrison strips them of their handicap and they begin to play music that was much better. By including the descriptive words the reader can draw the conclusion that the world is much improved with the handicaps gone. The world would is a dull place with fake emotions because everyone has handicaps, and by Harrison tearing them off he shows a more colorful version of their world. Furthermore being a figure for everyone.
Like mentioned earlier, Harrison is an example of rebellion. This leads to him being a hero. At one point in the story a ballerina on the program, George was watching, has to make an announcement. She says Harrison Bergeron has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, (3) This is the author trying to convey positive attributes like Athlete and genius in a negative light. By doing this the author is making the reader question if the handicaps are righteous or downright immoral. The ballerina also reveals that Harrison is trying to overthrow the government. By having contrast in the author’s story it demonstrates how different Harrison was from what the government wanted him to be. Harrison’s tenacious tendency to be himself is unwavering.
Harrison Bergeron, sacrificed his life just for the chance to be himself and change the world around him for the better. The author states this by having Harrison get shot and die in the end. It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor. (5) this conveys the severity and the government’s immoral aspects. It also is a perfect example of how he fought for what he believed in till the end of his life, because he believed the world would benefit from his leadership.
In closing Harrison Bergeron is a hero, as stated earlier he supported the people around him and encouraged them to develop their talents to their full capability, he was also one of the only people around him fighting back, causing him to be one of the only symbols for rebellion, he was also willing to sacrifice his life to end the governments cruel ways. Only a true hero would relinquish so much to assist others. The reader can take aways a lot from reading Harrison Bergeron, because it makes you realize you don’t always have to conform to the standards of society.
Harrison Bergeron Theme of Competition
Harrison Bergeron was written to give the reader some sort of idea as to what it would be like if there was no competition in the world. The main character is 14, tall, handsome, strong, athletic, smart, and above average in every way imaginable. The author uses humor and irony to depict a rather horrible story of a dystopian society where, all people were truly and fully made equal in every aspect imaginable under the law of the land.
The government made sure that no one could be smarter, prettier, stronger, or in anyway better than the next person. It is not only a story of government control but also a story about social boundaries and conforming to social norms in this made up society.
Competition is in our nature as people. There is always someone out there that is better, smarter, stronger, etc that we are trying to get ahead of. In this short story a woman named Diana Moon Glampers who was the handicapper general was required to come up with ideas to make sure that no one had an unfair advantage over anyone else. If someone was more than average in their intelligence, like the main character in this short story, they were required to wear an earpiece twenty-four hours a day that transmitted horrible noises into their ears in twenty second intervals to blast out the thoughts. Everyone in this society was required to wear sacks with a certain number of lead balls in them depending on their size, strength and other factors determined by the handicapper general, to weigh them down so that they couldn’t move faster than others.
Although unrealistic, this dystopian society draws parallels to the world we live in today. Everyone always competing to see who has the best job, the best house, the best car, etc. In everything we do we are competing against or siblings, peers, and the rest of the world for some sort of gratification. All children get a trophy for being on a sports team just for showing up for practices and games, just so that they don’t feel inferior to the children that are athletically inclined or the children who work harder and put in more time than the others to make themselves better.
The author uses extreme irony throughout the short story to illustrate just how ridiculous life was in this made up world. All TV/radio announcers had some sort of speech impediment, sometimes so severe that they couldn’t make the announcements that they were supposed to make. For example when the ballerina decided to read the announcement over live tv the narrator said She had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. Excuse me- she said and began again making her voice completely uncompetitive.
The advancement of technology is a big theme in this writing because of the use of all the handicapping devices. Everyone in this society had to wear a bag chained around their neck with a certain number of lead balls so no one would be stronger or faster than anyone else. For every ball you took out of your bag it was $2000 and 2 years in jail. If you had more than average intelligence you were to wear a mental handicap which played piercing noises in your ears so that you were not able to think clearly. If you could see better than everyone else, you would have to wear glasses to impair your vision. And if you didn’t look average, you would have to wear a mask so that no one felt threatened by your beauty. The more above average you looked, the uglier the mask you were made to wear. The main character, Harrison, had to wear big headphones that covered his ears, glasses that impaired his vision as well as giving him debilitating migraines. He was made to carry three hundred pounds of scrap metal on his body and, because of his good looks, was always made to wear a red ball on his nose 24 hours a day and to keep his eyebrows shaved.
Equality in Harrison Bergeron
In 2081 everyone was equal and the same. If you were superior to someone in any way theylimit you to make everyone equal in every way. In this society if you stick out from the crowdpeople get jealous and limit you and discriminate against you.
The characters in this rare Harrison, George, Hazel, and the handicapper general. The characters are all equal and alsoknown as handicapped to limit the strong or pretty people to make everyone equal. Thehandicapper general is in charge of keeping everyone the same. This story starts off with Hazeland George watching the ballerinas dance in an awkward manner because they have to haveweights to limit themselves from being too good. Harrison is 14 and 7 feet tall and he isn’t happy with being handicapped and disagrees withthe government.
In the story it says Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen, she said in a gracklesquawk, has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow thegovernment. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded asextremely dangerous (Vonnegut 2). If the government didn’t do this he would not be upset andcould be superior in his own ways to everyone and makes him special. Harrison is in jailbecause he was planning to overthrow the government and considered insane. He always hasheavy weights to handicap him for being better than other people. He breaks out of jail andinstead of using violence to overthrow the government he goes on tv, takes off his handicapsand dances with a pretty ballerina with her handicap off and gets shot by the handicap general.
Hazel is the mother of Harrison that is not handicapped and she watches the ballerinas withGeorge on tv together. She is also mentally slow and cannot focus for very long. In the story itstates Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do? Said Hazel. Hazel wasa strong resemblance to the handicap general, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. If Iwas Diana Moon Glampers said Hazel. I’d have chimes on Sunday” just chimes. Kind of inhonor of religion(Vonnegut 2). She is saying how she wants some sort of respect or honor in areligion. George is Harrison’s father and he has an intelligent mind so he was handicapped on thehead. In the story it says And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a littlemental handicap radio in his ear(Vonnegut 1). If the government didn’t do this he would behappy and and could be himself and would be able to use his brain for good and not be keptaway. George has a thing in his ear all the time so he doesn’t think to fast and disrupts histhinking with noises. He tries to think of things that will interfere with the government but theystop him with the headphones that he always have to wear by law.
In conclusion the characters all represent something in human nature for example, Harrisonrepresents freedom and the government doesn’t want that because they want everyone to beequal. Hazel and George are the example of the people that follows the laws. They sit back anddon’t retaliate because they can’t do anything about it.
Harrison Bergeron Literary Analysis
All men are created equal.” This famous phrase found in the Declaration of Independence is often thought to be an immortal declaration of the American Revolution with great continuing importance. This concept denotes the idea of equal opportunity for all American citizens, but what would happen if a government, or some other power, took this notion literally? Is it actually possible to make everyone perfectly equal in every aspect of life? Does leveling the playing field mean that everyone wins, or that no one does? There are many negative feelings and harsh criticisms expressed toward the idea of a socialist government. However, the consequences of this exact situation were actually forecast back in 1961 by Kurt Vonnegut in his short story Harrison Bergeron, which imagines a futuristic world based on literal equality.
Through his use of satire in the short story, Harrison Bergeron, Vonnegut mocks common fears of creating a socialist government in order to convince readers that socialism is not as dangerous as one might think.
Vonnegut argues how ridiculous some of these fears, such as enforced equality and the power of government officials, are through the continual use of apathetic tone. This is expressed through a lack of seriousness, calmly inadequate reactions, and frivolous sarcasm expressed through the shallow remarks of characters. This tone becomes especially prominent through the dialogue of George and Hazel Bergeron as they speak concerning their son, Harrison: There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about. The use of a careless, flippant tone expressed through Hazel’s response allows Vonnegut to make his point that socialism would never influence someone so greatly that it would control the individual thoughts and feelings that make us human. Even though George and Hazel witness the tragic death of their own son on live television, they respond in a completely passive and indifferent manner as if it meant nothing to them. Vonnegut uses this example to emphasize the distance placed between the character’s emotions and the reality of the event in order to show that the fear of socialism dehumanizing us is irrational. It is unfathomable in the minds of readers that someone could be desensitized to tragedy to such a great extent that he or she would forget the death of a child so easily and quickly. This concept supports Vonnegut’s claim by implying that a socialistic society could never have so much power over us that it would define who we are as people and limit the love and compassion we have for others.
Through his use of an apathetic tone, Vonnegut is able to subtly undermine the misconception that socialism would alienate individuals from basic human nature. Vonnegut successfully adds depth to this apathetic tone by incorporating humor to create a sense of sarcasm and dampen the seriousness of the issue being addressed. Vonnegut accomplishes this by describing some of the handicaps that were implemented in order to achieve equality: [The ballerinas] were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. This line is humorous because ballerinas typically symbolize grace and beauty. But, in order to eliminate competition and unfair advantages, the ballerinas were disabled to such an extent that their purpose was essentially defeated. The imagery in these sentences allows the reader to visualize the absurdity of the situation in a light, comical manner. The use of humor also allows Vonnegut to address a more pressing matter at hand without directly stating his position. The use of irony is also a prevalent literary device throughout the length of the short story that helps reveal Vonnegut’s purpose and stance on socialism. America is often thought to be a representation of freedom. The American Dream, for example, revolves around the idea that anyone, regardless of background, can achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination. The main irony of Harrison Bergeron is the handicap system enforced by the government to ensure that all citizens within the society are equal. The first paragraph of the story states: The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. This opening sentence portrays verbal irony because the author implies that there is equality. However, Vonnegut uses this sarcasm in an attempt to express the underlying message that coerced equality is not equality at all. Vonnegut takes this stand to not only relate to the majority of his audience through shared beliefs and values but also to communicate that opposing views of society may not be as different as they appear. By placing this ironic statement in the first sentence in the story, the reader feels an instant connection with the author and has a reason to trust his opinion later in the story. Vonnegut again uses irony within the first paragraph to further support his claim: This equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution. The additional amendments are ironic because equality usually gives everyone the same advantages and opportunities, not the same disadvantages.
Instead of providing everyone with the same advantages necessary for individuals to reach his or her full potential, the constitutional amendments in this futuristic society prohibit progress by making the weakest link a standard model and disadvantage its members in order to ensure that no one is better than anyone else. The reference to the Constitution is also made in order to stress the loss of freedom–the basis on which the American country was built–through excessive rules that had been implemented. It is ironic because the purpose of the Constitution today is to protect certain unalienable rights and freedoms for all American citizens. This revised, futuristic version that Vonnegut fabricates only deprives the country of all that it once stood for. Vonnegut purposely uses this ironic, unlikely situation in order to emphasize his point that equality will not eliminate the fundamental freedoms that we enjoy today as many people fear.
Finally, the use of absurdity employed throughout Harrison Bergeron further provides Vonnegut opportunity to expose the dysfunctional idea that people can truly be made equal. He expresses this absurdity through the description of one ballerina in particular: She must have been extraordinarily beautiful because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred-pound men. This line contains absurdity because the ability to observe the ballerina’s repulsive mask and recognize it as an indication of her extraordinary beauty proves Vonnegut’s point that true equality is unattainable. He proves repeatedly through examples such as this that people remain fundamentally the same despite ongoing changes and circumstances that may surround them. Based on her description, the reader knows that she is more beautiful and strong than anyone else in the room–even though it is hidden by an attractive mask and some heavy weights. Vonnegut’s use of absurdity in this unrealistic hypothetical world supports his claim that true equality can never be obtained, and ultimately, cannot succeed. Equality is something our country strives to achieve, but at what lengths? Vonnegut’s exploration of a truly equal society through the use of satire in his short story, Harrison Bergeron, allows his audience gain a new perspective regarding the effects of socialism on a country. Vonnegut masterfully captures the common irrational fears of socialism and exposes them through the use of an apathetic tone, irony, and absurdity.
Repressive Society in Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
The year is 2081, the addition of the 211th, 212 and 213 amendments to the Constitution makes everyone “equal”, George and Hazel Bergeron have a child named Harrison, Harrison is taken away from them when Harrison is 14. George has a radio in his ear because of his above average intelligence while Hazel has no handicap because she would be considered average by Harrison, however, has many handicaps because in the story he is considered a “… a genius, an athlete, is under-handicapped”
In the story, Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr, the government handicaps those whom they think are above average, so they handicap them to make them equal. For Instance, “It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out. Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of bear. George came back in with the beer, then paused while a handicap signal shook him up. and then he sat down again”(quote is taken from the story)The evidence shows the reader that the government controls the thoughts of its citizens because after the death of Harrison and the ballerina is shown on television, the radio handicap went off, disrupting the people’s ability to think. Like George Bergeron. It appears to the reader that the government makes sure that it has control over its citizens so that they do not remember the death of Harrison and the ballerina. In the scene where George’s handicaps are described, Kurt Vonnegut uses description to show the reader how the government handicaps George so he is “equal” to everyone else. This connects to the theme that through the use of physical and mental handicaps the government seeks to achieve total equality throughout its citizens, however, this only causes more problems than it solves.
The government handicaps its citizens so everybody is considered “Equal”. For Instance, “Hazel had perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would end out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantages of their brains.”(quote is taken from the story). In the scene, it explains that Hazel is considered “average” so she does not need any physical or mental handicaps. While George, on the other hand, does have a mental handicap because “…his intelligence was way above normal,”(quote is taken from the story) so he is required by law to wear it at all times. This shows that the government acknowledges George’s above average intelligence so to make sure he stays in line with others, the government tortures him by forcing him to wear a mental handicap at all times. Kurt Vonnegut uses the description of his characters to describe how Hazel is not handicapped but George is handicapped. This connects to the theme that through the use of physical and mental handicaps the government seeks to achieve total equality throughout its citizens, however, this only causes more problems than it solves.
The government should not have complete control over its citizens. While one could present the argument that the government should not have complete control over its citizens, but however they’re naive ways of thinking may forget that in the story, it says “Hazel had perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains”(quote is taken from the text this implies that the government does not have total control over Hazel.
Through the use of physical and mental handicaps the government seeks to achieve total equality throughout its citizens, however, this only causes more problems than it solves. After Harrison and the ballerina are killed on TV, the government sets of the radio handicapped so people cannot remember the death of Harrison and the ballerina. Having complete control over society is unhealthy for the people.
Short Story Analysis: Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
In Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s short story, “Harrison Bergeron”, the setting contributes significantly towards the meaning of the story. Set in the year 2081, an alternate reality in which the future USA government achieved equality among all citizens by enacting amendments that handicap those whom surpass other citizens in strength and talent. Vonnegut gives a satire tone towards America’s desire to have equality and fairness.
Vonnegut criticizes the idea of absolute equality in Harrison Bergeron and argues permitting political leaders to make laws that prohibit the citizens individuality and competitive nature. The short story Harrison Bergeron introduces the son of the two main characters, George and Hazel Bergeron, and has been taken at the young age of fourteen. Later in the story, Harrison returns, interrupting a broadcast of which is found out that he has remarkable strengths and intelligence, as an escapee from jail wanting to overthrow the government and help the citizens of the society.
Vonnegut’s point of view helps me understand his short story, the satire tone ridicules the idea of the United State wanting absolute equality. Vonnegut mocks the government for letting the amendments, that would create absolute equality, be enacted. The power of the government can be dangerous and condemning if the citizens empower their leaders to restrict citizens’ rights in any manner. For example, from the passage, “Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.”( Vonnegut 1) Those that had above average intelligence are limited to be equal to the rest of society. I believe his tone indicates a displeasure for the citizens that let their leaders become over powered.
In the extreme case of society in 2081, they attempted and succeeded in eliminating all the stress associated with performing and having to be competitive. For example, when George and Hazel are watching ballerinas on television, he observed them as, They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. The reason was because of the limitations even professionals were under. “They were burdened with sash weights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in”( Vonnegut 1). I think this means that the people also did not want to feel like they were less attractive to their spouse or loved one. Those of whom were known to have above average intelligence had mental restrictions along with those that were physically better than others.
The consequences of letting political leaders become too powerful can be a great. People knowingly adopt amendments that would give the government the right to develop and use technology to monitor citizens is far-fetched. These laws were implemented because not all citizens were aware or because most were just afraid. From the story Hazel said, “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few”( Vonnegut 2). of which George replied, “Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out” (Vonnegut 2). The fine for alleviating the weight from a person would result in hefty fines. It seems to me that the intelligent are also watched in their home so they do pose a threat. The narrator’s point of view is mocking the idea of the government creating absolute equality.
The Vonnegut then brings Harrison back into the scene. He reintroduces Harrison by using a breaking news report while George and Hazel where watching TV. Later to find out he is a fugitive with incredible strength and an intelligent mind because and he does not want to where limitations. As this man claimed to be the new emperor and started to free those around him, the United States Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor (Vonnegut 5). Vonnegut illustrates Harrison as a revolutionary that want freedom for the citizens. Harrison was too dangerous for a government with little patience for those that broke the law. For example, from the passage, “Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on (Vonnegut 5). Even though it was Harrison that broke them off, the Handicappers saw the musicians as a threat without the limitations.
In conclusion, Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s satire tone in the short story suggests he argues against the idea of absolute equality . He ridicules the protagonists because they rather live with the limitations then have freedom. Vonnegut’s story is an alternate future reality were we head down a path where our government is taking power away from the people by implementing laws and passing bills that would favor their longevity. The improvement of technology is making this possible as well as the underlying greed most leaders have.