Equality in America Represented in Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
In Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” “The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal” (Vonnegut 233). The idea that every American is equal seems almost mythical. Numerous societies over the centuries have tried to achieve this unattainable goal, and none have succeeded, so what happens to a nation when a government’s strategies become too radical? The story parallels with communist governments throughout history, in countries such as China and Soviet Russia. “Harrison Bergeron” is a perfect illustration of how government extremes, and manufactured equality are dangerous.
America’s government, in this story, stripped every person of their natural abilities and individuality to accomplish the ultimate mission of equality. People were forced to wear handicaps to level them to a standard set by the government. George Bergeron was forced to wear radio transmitters in his ears “…to keep people like [him] from taking unfair advantage of their brains” (Vonnegut 234). The transmitters would blast unbearable sounds in his ears, so he would not be able to think. There was an established fear of people with intelligence; they risk the government being overthrown.
Not only was intelligence a concern of the authorities, but beauty and physical strength were as well. The ballerina’s had to wear masks to cover their alluring facial attributes. Harrison, the ballerinas, and George all had to wear weights to physically wear them down. People with stamina were considered a threat to those who were weaker. The news reporter, “like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment”, to prevent him from being to gifted at his job (Vonnegut 235). The ideal is to not be physically fit, attractive, or intelligent enough to make anyone feel inferior, much like Hazel Bergeron, a rather senseless character, whom did not need a handicap. Hazel happens to be similar to the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, whom also does not wear handicaps. However, Diana Moon Glampers did not wear a handicap, because she symbolizes the superiority of the regime. There always has to be someone on top, better than equal, and Diana takes that role.
The effect of the government’s policy created a country filled with people unable to reach their capabilities, ensuring the halt of innovation, development, and creativity. Not only did the government kill the potential of the nation, but they instilled fear among the American people. When George mentions, “Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out….we’d be back right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else,” it is easy to understand how internalized the goals of the government are in the citizens (Vonnegut 235). The belief that equality comes with the expense of liberty and personal achievement is what ultimately leads to the rebellion of Harrison Bergeron.
Harrison, represents the glimmer of individuality still left in some souls of the American people. As Harrison “…tore the straps of his handicap harness…smashed his headphones…flung away his rubber-ball nose…” he unleashed his true self (Vonnegut 237). Many people were longing to do the same, and Harrison inspired them for a short while to look beneath their handicaps. The brief revolution suggests that citizens are responsible for change in society, and must be brave and take a stance against the rules and standards in place. Harrison, whom is strong, good-looking, and smart, not only represents personality, but defiance. He has no regard for the authority, and risks his life to prove it. The tragic murder of the beloved protagonist implies that there is no room for resistance; although there is a disobedience in the nation, Diana Moon Glampers (and other government officials) will not stand for it. The slaughter of Harrison Bergeron is just a warning to other Americans.
Despite the trials that nations have gone through to achieve equality, and their egalitarian views, “Harrison Bergeron” has demonstrated extremes in government policy can sometimes lead to devastation and tragedy. Manufactured equality is hazardous, and even more so when it affects the people’s’ basic rights and freedoms. It is unrealistic that a country could set all of it’s citizens to an equilibrium, let alone without rebellion, so it is important to know that people are different from each other, and our differences must be appreciated.
Individuals Status in the Society
Although both “D.P.” and “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut are situated in starkly different time periods, these short stories touch upon the same idea of the individual’s status within society. “D.P.” takes place in an orphanage runs by Catholic nuns in the German village of Karlswald on the Rhine, while “Harrison Bergeron” takes place in a futuristic society; here, individuals are stripped of free will in a dystopian society similar to that depicted in George Orwell’s 1984. In both cases, the protagonist is seen as restricted; Joe is unable to leave the orphanage and seek his father, and George Bergeron is unable to fully cultivate his mind. Despite such disparities, Vonnegut consistently touches upon themes of society and human nature, and the intermingling of an individual and his respective authority.
From the onset of “D.P.”, the restriction of freedom of the “Eighty-one small sparks of human life” is made evident, as the children are “kept in an orphanage”, and “Marched […] through the woods, into the village and back, for their ration of fresh air” (Vonnegut 161). The manifestations of order that the children are confined in, and the manner in which Joe is shielded from the topic of his father when the nun constantly digresses to the topic of the sparrow, demonstrate the hindrance of knowledge that bars the children from understanding the world around them. During a time in which the children should experience parental love, nurturing, is replaced by an abnormal lifestyle as they are sheltered from the real world. The title, which may stand for “displaced persons” (Vonnegut 167), also shows the effect of war on the development of the young. In a sense, Vonnegut satirizes war and the effect it has on innocent children in society, who are also exposed to a form of racial profiling, when the village carpenter and others in the village speculate “the nationalities of the passing children’s parents” (Vonnegut 161), and feeding Joe information about a “Brown Bomber”, “American soldier”, and “more water than you have ever seen” (Vonnegut 163). When Joe attempts to pursue knowledge and search for his father, he is sent back by the troops. Interestingly enough, the troops treated Joe much kindly than did the orphanage, giving him chocolate, and commenting, “By golly, I don’t believe the boy’s ever seen chocolate before […] Talk about displaced persons […] this here’s the most displaced little old person I ever saw. Upside down and inside out and ever’ which way” (Vonnegut 167). In the end, Joe is filled with false hope for the return of his “father.”
In “Harrison Bergeron,” George Bergeron is a puppet in society in which socialism seems to be the goal – a twisted form of socialism, where extreme attained equality ironically results in a restriction of rights and thus an inherent inequality. In this dystopian world set in 2081, the United States Handicapper General is the Big Brother of this society, where each individual is placed under the constant scrutiny of the “H-G men,” and where intelligence and beauty are scraped down to a bare minimum in order to ensure “equality”. In this sense, Vonnegut blatantly satirizes enforced equality and a socialistic society. Although in a theoretical sense, achieving full equality is a positive notion, Vonnegut presents the shortcomings. George and Hazel are subdued to a meaningless life; “Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else […] George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear […] to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains” (Vonnegut 7). Rather than protest, George completely obeys the restrictions placed on him, while oblivious to the arrest of his son. Individuals in this society who are too beautiful, too strong, and too intelligent, are given “handicaps” to render them average, which ironically is not “equality”, as they are not given the freedom to exert their natural-born abilities. Harrison Bergeron encapsulates a character who stands out as an anomaly to society, much like Winston, who realizes the manipulation of the government. The hindrance of the grace and beauty of the ballerinas with the lighthearted tone of the story seemingly gives a touch of twisted humor; at the end, all is well and normal life is resumed. The robotic nature of life and the lack of variety gives off a sad sympathy in the reader. It is interesting to note the symbolism of Harrison’s appearance on television; although it is very obvious that something is wrong, his parents do not notice, symbolizing the utmost power of the dystopian government.
In both narratives, the father-son relationship is the most interesting, although these relationships are different in both scenarios. Vonnegut’s treatment evokes a feeling a sadness and pity, as both stories show how a corrupted society (or just society in general) tears apart families and the lives of individuals. The oblivion and false optimism shown in George and Joe is heartbreakingly sad, as they are blissfully unaware of what they are truly missing in life. Joe yearns for a fatherly figure, and is unable to escape the orphanage, while George is unable to escape the society that he completely succumbs to and believes to be perfect and deserving. Ultimately, the negative impact that society and warfare have on an individual is exemplified in both protagonists.
The Use of Irony to Emphasize Human Nature in Stephen King’s Popsy and Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron
Response to “Popsy” & “Harrison Bergeron”
In Popsy, by Stephen King, irony is used to make a point about human nature. Though this story is unrealistic and somewhat far-fetched, details make it seem realistic until the very end. The story begins with the main character, Sheridan, arriving to the Cousintown Mall. We soon discover that he is looking for a child to kidnap in order to pay back gambling debts. Upon finding a prime target, Sheridan initiates contact, discovering the boy had lost his ‘Popsy’. After some work, he gets the boy into his van, handcuffs him, and drives off to deliver him to Mr. Wizard. First, we have irony in the ease with which Sheridan kidnaps the boy. Passers-by see him talking to the boy, and solely based on his appearance decide that the situation is okay, and that Sheridan is a good guy, saying “A woman headed in glanced around with some vague concern.
‘It’s all right,’ Sheridan said to her, and she went on” (Popsy). By saying this, King shows that not everything or everyone is what or who it seems to be. This woman seemed concerned, but after seeing this normal looking guy, and his saying that everything was fine, she deemed that the situation was okay. Ironically, this seemingly normal guy was in the process of kidnapping a child. Also ironically, the boy continuously warns Sheridan about the capabilities of his Popsy, that he is very strong, can fly, and will find him. Sheridan’s disbelief becomes ironic once Popsy literally lands on the moving vehicle and we find out that Popsy can, in fact, fly. The boy had tried to tell Sheridan, but he had not listened to his warnings. This story also points to the fact of human nature, that people will do whatever it takes to survive. Sheridan owes money to the wrong people, and the only way to save himself is by kidnapping children and delivering them to Mr. Wizard. Though there are signs that he does not like doing this, ultimately the message is conveyed that he, and humans in general, will do whatever is necessary to survive.
Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut, also uses irony to say something about human nature. This story, though more of a sci-fi story than horror, also uses details to make a futuristic, unrealistic story seem realistic or relatable. Set in the future, this story tells the reader of a world where everyone is equal. No one can be better than anyone else, and anyone born with a skill or talent has it taken away from them by the government. However, everyone is accepting of this world since they believe it is better than the old way, saying of the past “Pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?” (2). They refer to the past as the ‘dark ages’, implying its horridness, and also point out that neither of them would wish to be back in that time. Ironically, though they describe the past as horrible, the world that they currently live in is actually horrible. However, they are accepting of their new world and do not wish to break from it. This is seemingly part of human nature, not wanting to break from the norm or be different.
What I learned from these stories:
From these stories, I learned that it is possible to write of incredible things or fictional futuristic worlds, while still seeming realistic to the reader. King and Vonnegut somehow describe in great detail these things that do not exist, and still make them easily imaginable. Such as in Popsy, when I read the scene that Popsy lands on the van, it did not seem crazy or far-fetched, it just flowed with the rest of the story.
The Dangers of Equality: a Close Reading of “Harrison Bergeron”
Many people believe that total equality for any race, sex, or religion is worth the effort. Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron” focuses on individuals’ greatest qualities and the altering of them to exceed the average standard. For example, those of higher intelligence were forced to wear devices inhibiting their ability to think. Beautiful citizens were forced to conceal their looks with a hideous mask. Additionally, they were forced to weight themselves to impair their gracefulness. The importance of the story is for the reader to comprehend that the base of any society is for citizens to have the opportunity to reach their full potential. The outcome of attempting to make an “equal” society resulted in citizens living in fear of their abilities. Kurt Vonnegut demonstrates his theme that forced equality is achieved at the expense of freedom and individuality. Vonnegut focuses on the story’s setting, character actions, and imagery to support the theme.
“Harrison Bergeron” has an elaborate setting in a dystopian future that supports his theme. The short story revolves around a couple named Hazel and her handicapped husband George watching ballerinas dance on television. When readers are first introduced to the story it states, “The year was 2081 and everybody was finally equal. They were not only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendment.” (195). Due to the implementation of the Constitutional Amendments added to the Bill of Rights, this demonstrates the theme of every citizen being forced to be equal. The insistence on the concept of total equality by commanding individuals to neglect their advanced qualities. Moreover, a society cannot thrive if individuals are tortured to fit into the society’s standards. Another example is in Hunter Baker’s article where he states, “When government attempts to affect substantive outcomes through active interference, it sets citizens against each other and threatens the social cohesion necessary for the broader society” (Baker 4). In addition, this statement goes hand in hand with the theme. The reader is shown in “Harrison Bergeron” how the government attempts to strip citizens of their rights by striking fear in the citizens that disobey the biased laws. For instance when Harrison Bergeron escapes from jail, Harrison is portrayed as a brave, strong, attractive, alpha male. Harrison Bergeron removes his restraints and handicaps, the physical strength and the beauty he reveals triggers citizens to be reminded that underneath their own handicaps they are intelligent and talented.
The actions Vonnegut creates for the characters demonstrate to the reader that the clear theme for the short story is forced equality, which achieved at the expense of freedom and individuality. Near the end of the story, it states, “It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the handicapper general, came into the studio with a double-barred ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor” (199). Due to the murder of Harrison Bergeron and the beautiful ballerina, it confirmed that because they were murdered, they were and would never be equal in the eyes of society. Citizens with higher intelligence and talent were given complete equality instead of being obliged to endure the inhumane punishment of restraints and handicap devices. On the contrary, handicapped citizens deserve the privilege of being able to assert themselves in any way they pleased. At the end of Vonnegut’s story, he displays a conversation between George and Hazel. Hazel says “Gee-I could tell that one was a doozy” and George responds back, “You can say that again,” Hazel responds “ Gee-I could tell that one was a doozy” (200). This particular action demonstrates to the reader that Hazel is below the average intelligence. Also having no mental handicap herself, she is unaware that the government is demoralizing every citizen with restraints or a handicap. Referring back to the story, George tells Hazel to forget sad things and Hazel responds with “I always do” (200). The government coerces equality by intimidating every citizen that disobeys the law. The citizens have no choice but to forget the desperate situation they are surrounded by and to internalize the fear that the government will severely punish them if they display any outstanding abilities.
Throughout the short story, Vonnegut includes multiple uses of imagery to portray his theme that forced equality is achieved at the expense of freedom and individuality. For instance, Hazel asks George, “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot around his neck” (197). This demonstrates that the citizens believe they are equal, but by requiring handicapped citizens similar to George Bergeron to wear restraints and “handicap bag” on their bodies, they are not receiving true equality. Another example of imagery during the story is when it is stated that, “to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that Harrison Bergeron wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random” (198). Vonnegut included this sentence in the short story to provide support for the theme by demonstrating that for Harrison to be equal in society’s standards, he was forced to degrade himself and obey the rules of the handicap general. An important statement in the story is “Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds” (198). This sentence from the story proves and supports the theme. No matter a number of restraints and handicap devices on an individual obliging them to demote him or her will never be the solution. The short story of Harrison Bergeron demonstrates that even though the government may attempt to enforce equality although the strong and intelligent individuals will revolt against the laws that demoralize citizens.
In the final analysis of Vonnegut’s short story, “Harrison Bergeron,” Vonnegut’s use of setting, character actions, and imagery unite to support the theme that forced equality is achieved but at the expense of freedom and individuality. In Vonnegut’s futuristic dystopia society had not pursued to make new amendments that severely impacted the equality of citizens. The reader would not inquire the knowledge of how damaging it can be to allow the government to demoralize citizens with certain abilities. Through the actions of characters, the story demonstrates to the reader that forcing citizens to wear restraints and handicap devices is not the definition of true equality. The short story of Harrison Bergeron allows the reader to see that having forced equality does not compare to having true equality.
“Reflections on Social Justice, Government, and Society*.” Reflections on Social Justice, Government, and Society*.
Hunter Baker , 2012. Web. 27 Feb. 2017. Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. “Harrison Bergeron,” Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. XJ. Kennedy and Diana Gioia. 5th ed. New York: Pearson, 2016. 194-200. Print.
“Harrison Bergeron”: a Story vs a Film
While the short film, 2081, has many common similarities with its adapted version of the short story, Harrison Bergeron, they differ from each other to the point where it can change our whole view on who Harrison Bergeron is. They contrast from each other because the short film includes an unplanned scene where Harrison hid a bomb that activated the signal to reach all televisions when triggered, while the short story did not have this very important aspect at all. This is very critical because the bomb represents the most crucial act that humans use everyday: dependence.
In the story, Harrison Bergeron, the author missed what was really essential on what might have been impactful on the readers, the bomb shown in 2081. This bomb can be represent many things, but most importantly, the secret belief of it helping the lost people. In the real world, a bomb is used to help the defense side to protect its people from the offense and used to most likely end an ongoing feud. In this film, Harrison was seen as the bomb. Harrison was holding the weight of many lives that depended on him to save them and their closely, monitored lives. He wanted to end the never-ending fight between the people who had limited, restrained knowledge against the crazy and controlling government. But sadly, bombs have many negative side effects such as creating more destructive work after it is used. After it’s been used and didn’t affect the opponents at all, it will only stricken the defense’s laws even more so the same mistake wouldn’t happen again.
In the story and film, after the Handicap General killed Harrison Bergeron , upon on how the General acted in the last few seconds of the film, they could have enforced upon more harsh commands upon the clueless people so that they wouldn’t go up against the government like Harrison did. Therefore, this proves the importance and the effect of the bomb and what would happen if it were to be in the short story of Harrison Bergeron. It would change the views of the reader on Harrison instead of the violent and dangerous perspective of him that the story gives off. Such a small detail in the movie such as the bomb show two different perspectives on how the reader views Harrison.
In the end it would not make a difference as Harrison was gunned down by the Handicap General in both 2081 and Harrison Bergeron. The story Harrison Bergeron would of benefited gratefully from having the inclusion of the bomb seen in 2081. Without it both the movie and the story shed a different light on Harrison, who he is and his ultimate goal to save the handicapped forever.
The Symbols In Harrison Bergeron By Kurt Vonnegut
In “Harrison Bergeron” Kurt Vonnegut criticized the way government took advantage of the power they had over civilians and demolished people’s strongest capabilities. A few years later, Joseph Alvarez wrote “An Overview of Harrison Bergeron” to analyze the work. He believed Vonnegut’s use of the television is a way of telling how powerful technology can be. This is one aspect of it but Alvarez thought that this was Harrison’s only reason for being so influential. Brian Pearl also wrote a critical essay on Harrison Bergeron and included Alvarez’s thoughts. Pearl agreed and added in that “fighting for your freedom is not worth it when you live in an authoritative society”. Harrison has the ability to rebel against the government and the will to fight because of all the potential that was concealed by his handicaps. The television made the word of Bergeron travel faster but the uprising would have been just as persuasive and this could be proved using imagery and symbolism.
Although the television made Harrison’s boycott of the handicaps seem very important it would have been an even bigger deal if it wasn’t aired. Vonnegut vividly describes the way that Harrison and the beautiful ballerina defied the laws of gravity by floating into the air. “They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun. They leaped like deer on the moon”. All the people in the studio during the uprise came to watch a ballet recital but witnessed the death of two young adolescents with so much potential. There were many people in the room like ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers. Sooner or later everyone would be gossiping about the “recital” and all the citizens would be in shock. The word of mouth is just as significant as the power of the television. “Harrison’s power to reach the people and make a new reality (declaring himself emperor), stems from controlling television”. Another aspect is that Harrison’s power comes from the way he rebelled against the government. He could have started a revolution by doing this. He knew what he was getting into but living with all the handicaps just wasn’t much of a life at all.
In Pearls review, he states “Harrison Bergeron shows that fighting for your freedom is not worth it when you live in an authoritative society”. Another way to look at it is if you don’t fight, you can’t live the way that is just. Pearl’s statement is just like saying that all of Martin Luther King Jr.’s protesting wasn’t worth it because he got assassinated. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted justice for everyone just like Harrison. They knew that what they were doing could get them into loads of trouble, but they did it because they didn’t like their quality of life. Harrison couldn’t think about one thing for more than thirty seconds without being interrupted by a random noise. He had to shave off his eyebrows and carry an enormous weight because he was too strong and handsome. The handicaps in the story symbolizes the limited freedom experienced across the world. They represent all that society could be if it wasn’t so limited. All the handicaps can make someone’s personality completely different. Pearl states “A citizen who lets their government take away their rights without a fight loses his or her soul in the process”. For this exact reason, Harrison fought and sacrificed his life in the hopes that others would rebel as well.
In conclusion, most of the symbols in Harrison Bergeron are prominent in today’s world. An example is the power of television. Television has become an everyday type of thing for many people all over the world. It makes news spread faster and to more areas but it isn’t the only way a message could get around. Also, one person can make a difference. Pearl said “…Harrison’s death shows us… isn’t worth it because it takes more than one person to take down a whole government”. This can be disputed because everything has to start with one person. Nothing major can just change overnight. Modification takes time and patience.
Issues Of Lost Authority, Television, And Forced Equality In Harrison Bergeron Kurt Vonnegut
Equality is something many people had to fight for. Imagine in a dystopian United States in 2081 when everyone is equal. Above average people have handicaps so they are equal to normal people. A powerful symbol in this story is the TV which Harrison’s parents are watching. In this story lost authority, television impact, and forced equality are all seen.
Television is a very important symbol in this story. The television in George and Hazel Bergeron’s living room shows the story. Television is an immensely powerful force that sedates, rules, and terrorizes the characters in “Harrison Bergeron.” To emphasize television’s overwhelming importance in society, Vonnegut makes it a constant presence in his story the entire story takes place as George and Hazel sit in front of the TV. The television functions primarily to keep the citizens sedated. Hazel cries, but because she is distracted by the ballerinas on the screen, she doesn’t remember why she is crying. The government also uses TV to enforce its laws. When talented people like Harrison are on the loose, the government broadcasts warnings about them. The government shows the photograph of Harrison with his good looks mutilated and his strength dissipated by handicaps which were,”300 pounds of metal, a red rubber nose, headphones, and spectacles”. The photo is a way of finding the supposedly dangerous escapee even if the citizens can’t remember, but it is also a way of intimidating television viewers. It gives them a visual example of what happens when someone with a handicap escapes, “Harrison is killed and his parents who just watched him die and forget it seconds later”. Television further turns into a means of terrorizing the citizens when Diana Moon Glampers shoots Harrison with her double barrel shotgun. The live execution is an effective way of showing viewers what will happen to those who disobey the law. The government also uses the television for propaganda.
Lost authority is seen for the brief moments when Harrison proclaims himself Emperor, destroys his state-issued handicaps, and dances beautifully on state TV, the government’s power is lost. Although the moment is short-lived (a government agent shoots Harrison dead while he’s dancing), his dissent nonetheless shows that individuals might still have power under totalitarianism. Harrison’s exceptional existence proves that equality isn’t absolute (or else he wouldn’t have been able to achieve such an extraordinary feat), and therefore that the state’s power is not omnipotent. However, even though Harrison Bergeron is an extraordinary individual whose very existence poses a serious threat to the totalitarian government of Vonnegut’s story, his execution by the government and his parents’ subsequent inability to recall witnessing his murder ultimately suggests that, once the government has consolidated enough power, individual dissent has little effect. Vonnegut writes that, as Harrison danced, “Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.” The language and imagery of weightlessness (the destruction of physical handicaps; the physical “neutraling of gravity with love and pure will” as Harrison and the ballerina float to the ceiling) surrounding Harrison’s performance suggests that dissent can bring freedom for those who are subjected to state authority. Indeed, just as Harrison’s dancing suggests broader liberation.
Forced equality is seen in the futuristic world of “Harrison Bergeron,” the government applies physical and mental handicaps to individuals with above-average strength and intelligence in order to guarantee that all people in society are equal. While equality is often regarded as a positive condition of democratic society, Vonnegut’s dystopian portrayal of an absolutely equal society reveals how equality must be balanced with freedom and individualism in order for society to thrive. Although in the story all people are “finally equal” in “every which way,” Vonnegut suggests that forbidding individualism causes society to suffer. For instance, the distribution of mental handicaps prevents citizens from thinking critically or creatively. In the case of George, who has “way above normal intelligence,” citizenship in an equal society comes at the price of his ability to critically question the world around him. George clearly has the impulse to question the invasive nature of government regulations on equality, particularly with regards to the handicaps’ negative effects on the arts (he watches shackled dancers on TV who are forbidden from displaying any above-average talent), yet the presence of his own mental handicaps prevents him from pursuing this line of thought: “George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped,” Vonnegut writes.
Reading Response On Harrison Bergeron By Kurt Vonnegut
The time we live in now there is lots of rights and freedom we have. We live in a place where we have the opportunity to be our own person and we don’t even think twice about it. We have these privileges that we take for granted. In the short story, “Harrison Bergeron” life is the total opposite. Everyone one is equal if you have any advantage over anyone you get weights if you have a physical advantage to equal you out or if you are more educated you get a hearing piece that makes loud noises to ruin all your thoughts. Harrison Bergeron was written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The story showed that being the same all the time can affect the way we live, how we act, and what we say and do.
When I first read this story I never really had much thought about how lucky I am. I always knew I was privileged to live in this amazing country but I never really went deep into what it’s like to not have my freedom. Reading this story and seeing that everyone had to be equal and the same really change my feelings. This stories text has personally affected me because it has really made me realize that maybe myself personally and everyone in general should except that we are all different and stop trying to be the same as one another because the things that make us different from each other is what makes us so great. This story has personally affected me because it has made me thankful and I will never take my traits that are different from everyone else for granted.
This story clashes with my views of the world a lot. The biggest thing that I don’t agree with is the law of everyone being equal. With everyone being equal we lose are uniqueness. “They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.” This quote from the story is the rules established at the beginning explaining how the world works in the year 2081. When I read this from the text it made me wonder why anyone would consider us fully equal as humans. We already give out enough participation trophies and making everyone equal will make people lose their drive and motivation because there is no point at being better than someone else at something. That is what I don’t really agree with establishing rules that would ruin society.
Reading this story my views did not change at all really. I totally disagree with making everyone equal because I think it will only make us as a society very weak but I also agreed with a part well mostly a particular character and that character was Harrison Bergeron. Harrison is the one rebel that understands in the story we should all be different and I really liked that about Harrison because he was the only person with some common sense. ‘I am the Emperor!’ cried Harrison. ‘Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!’ He stamped his foot and the studio shook. 4 ‘Even as I stand here’ he bellowed, ‘crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!’ Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds. Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.” This quote was very impactful when I read it because it showed whatever rules they tried to put in place Harrison wasn’t going to listen and that is why this was the one part I agreed strongly on.
This short story addresses many things that I find important to me. The big picture of the story was taking away everyone’s freedom and differences. Some big things that I find important are things like my faith, My rights to be different, Freedom of speech and that is why I personally think that this story was written in such an effective way because it created this world that we are not use to hearing. We don’t like to be told what to do and in this story every single thing people do is not their own decision. In the passage they talked about all these restrictions like the hearing aids or the weights put on people. These things are examples of things being taken away from everyone and so when people have to be the same they can’t have their own beliefs really. So for me this interferes with for example my religion of being a Catholic because they won’t allow me to have my own opinions on faith. So this is how the story really addressed things I found important because it really made me think about what it would be like if I didn’t get to express my beliefs.
I was really entertained when I first read this story. The story immediately started off with a great hook, “THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.” When I read this I right away was intrigued by what this story was going to be like and it really did end up being very exceptional. The author, Vonnegut did a great job making this story entertaining. When he went straight into talking about the future he had me really interested because I wanted to see what someone elses view of the future was like. I thought he did a great job being very creative and even though he didn’t write this story this year it collaborates well with what all has been going on because right now there is lots of talk on equality. Equality for races and equality for women and pay and so to create a story about everyone being equal I thought it worked really well that I just so happened to be a topic at this time. I thought Vonnegut was very smart with how he planned out his writing. I liked how he was able to come up with these restrictions to everyone like the weights for the more athletic and physical people and the hearing aids that made noises for the very intelligent people. His creativity is what really brought this story together in my opinion. Stories like this are very rare to find. You have these two brilliant aspects of this story that put together made it so great. The first is the entertaining aspect of it. People of all ages and intelligence could read this short story very easy because it isn’t too challenging and it is very creative and exciting that it would keep many people’s attention while reading. The next aspect that really made this a fantastic book is the lessons behind it. This book wasn’t just for entertainment, there was a deeper meaning for it. Vonnegut brought up a big topic which is equality. But he didn’t just bring it up in a boring way he really thought out how he can attract the most readers while also making us think about what would happen if the rules were changed and what will our upcoming futures look like. This is why I believe this was such an effective story and why I think myself and many other people have enjoyed it and why Vonnegut did such a good job writing it.
Overall I thought this short story was very exceptional. It brought many things together to make a creative, educational, and entertaining story to read. I will definitely read more short stories from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. If I was going to recommend this short story to anyone I would Recommend it to someone that is interested in futuristic things like a person that enjoys seeing other people’s views on what the future will look like to them. I also would recommend this story to people that are looking for something entertaining and not as serious because this book is all about fun and then lastly if someone is interested in equality and things on that topic this could be a really good story to read because it might change some people’s views about being equal because they can see that it actually didn’t turn out to be very good in this story and so maybe people will think of better ways to find ways to satisfy everyone in other ways than just being equal. This is what I thought about the short story, “Harrison Bergeron” and why I thought this was such a good book for people to read and what I liked and thought about the story.
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.