Harrison Bergeron

Social Injustice in Harrison Bergeron and Slumdog Millionaire

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

“Two men are accused of murdering a man in an Ogden transient camp after, police say, they went there to “find and harass homeless people.” (Godfrey). “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” (M.L. King). The story Harrison Bergeron, written by Vonnegut Kurt, displays a logical indication of why society should take advantage of people’s natural talents and capabilities. Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup provides the message to not underestimate or generalize people based off of their social or financial status. Instead of suppressing those with remarkable capabilities out of jealousy, or shunning those born in poverty out of ignorance, accept all humans, for we were all born with distinct value, and are equal for it. This is why ableism and classism should be ceased.

Harrison Bergeron is an example of covert affirmative action. “An “ableist” belief system often underlies negative attitudes, stereotypes and stigma toward people with psychosocial disabilities. “Ableism” refers to attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities.” (Ontario Human Rights Commision). However, this stigma applies to rather able-bodied people instead of disabled people. In Kurt Vonnegut’s, Harrison Bergeron, the government has made a law to devalue people by providing specific handicaps to suppress specific abilities and traits. The idea is so that everyone feels equal and jealousy or judgement are not present. Despite the fact that this idea is used for the purpose of forming a utopia, the citizens have animosity towards it. George is dissatisfied with a bland ballet session on television that he is watching with his wife, Hazel. The dancers must wear heavy bags to prevent graceful movement, masks to hide their beauty, and are not allowed to speak unless their voices are unappealing. In fact, it is difficult for George to enjoy anything since he wears handicaps on his ears which release a siren-like noise in his head. Hazel acknowledges the ballerinas by saying, “That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did there” (Kurt 2). George insincerely replies saying, “Yup.” (Kurt 2). “George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped” (Kurt 2). Anyone’s intuition can tell them why handicaps are a blockade in the fictional society at this point. Ballet is a form of art and should not be disparaged. The highest attributed ballerina was forced to apologise for her voice. “And she has to apologise at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.” (Kurt 3). The notion of extreme equality is not worth what assets, creations, and self-progression could be lost by subduing able-bodied people, as presented in Harrison Bergeron. George’s son, Harrison, was put into prison for being mentally and physically outstanding, thus being a potential threat to society. This is comparable to the many heretics throughout the middle ages who questioned God and the church’s rules. Heretics were far more logical than commoners and were often killed for it, as seen as a potential threat against the power of the church. This goes to show that it is pitiful to suppress humans with prominent value because brilliant ideas and talents can transpire to benefit society. Another example of social injustice is classism, which corresponds with the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

People living in poverty as are often underestimated and considered to be less intelligent or worthless. In the film Slumdog Millionaire, Directed by Danny Boyle, a boy named Jamal has successfully earned two million dollars. He knew all the questions on the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” from his experiences through life. Jamal feels confident up to the commercial session of the show, where he his brought backstage, dragged into a van, and chained onto a ceiling to be interrogated. “Tell me how you cheated.” (Boyle). The police as well as the host of the show believe that Jamal is cheating, due to the fact that he comes from poverty and question his sources of knowledge. If a child born from a wealthy family were to progress as far as Jamal has, no suspicion would be drawn. This particular scene is a good representation of classism. The slums have schools and use the same textbooks as any other school does. Jamal is undeniably discriminated for being born into poverty and being a Muslim, thus his life expectations are low, and any notion of success is seen as dishonesty. Slumdog Millionaire is similar to the film Hidden Figures Directed by Theodore Melfi. Katherine Johnson, an African American mathematician who works for NASA is a minority. During the beginning of the film, she had to drive 40 minutes to use a restroom, was often ignored, and was treated poorly by her superiors. Despite the hatred she received, Katherine Johnson became one of the leading mathematical engineers in the early days of the aerospace industry. Dorothy deserves respect for her will-power and intelligence, hence it was wrong of everyone to treat her poorly.

Harrison Bergeron is an excellent example of affirmative action and discrimination against abled people. It is set in a dystopia with the involvement of severe equality. Slumdog Millionaire is an excellent example of classism. The movie demonstrates life as a poverty-stricken, Muslim minority striving for a future. Instead of suppressing those with superior capabilities out of jealousy, or shunning those born in poverty out of ignorance, accept all humans, for we were all born with distinct value and are equal for it. If all minorities and those considered to be lesser humans were to live in their own community, would people then realize that their lives are not experiencing any greater significance?

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America’s Future is Communism

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

A world where everyone is equally beautiful, intelligent, and strong is an ideal world that everyone fantasizes about and strives for. In this world, not only would no one have to worry about being judged by their physical appearance or intelligence, but everyone would equal. In the short story“ Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, America’s future is looking magnificent: everyone is equal, and no one has to worry about how they physically appear to others or how smart they may be. The “above average” people are required by law to wear “handicaps” that essentially make their above average traits more prominent. Smart people are required to wear hearing devices that essentially blasts ear deafening sounds into their ears every 20 seconds to prevent them from thinking. Beautiful people have to wear mask in order to hide their beauty.

In a world like this, citizens are basically tortured. This is very similarly to a communist society in a sense that the story shares traits such as citizens being tortured for disagreement with the government. The story was written during the “Red Scare”, 1961 because of this, a theme of communism is shown within the story, communism is defined as “A society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.” (Dictionary.com). Communism is seen at its extreme when people, their abilities and their freedom are taken from them. The story also shows an oppressive government not allowing its citizens to think freely with the use of handicaps. A handicap is supposed to make above average traits appear less prominent, however, the way that it is portrayed in the story, these handicaps only make the above average traits appear more prominent because characters in the story would realistically stand out more with these handicaps.

For example, the story states Harrison had to wear a clown nose and ugly mask, a typical person who saw this would understand that Harrison must be a good looking male because the government found a need to have to censor how he looked. In this scenario, the handicap that Harrison is put in turns into an advantage. A female would more likely go after a male wearing an uglier mask because it is a symbol that he must be really good looking if the government found it necessary to put an extraordinarily ugly mask on them. This also works vice versa, if a girl is wearing an extremely ugly mask, then she must be really beautiful, males would more likely chase after a women who has an uglier mask. This America that Harrison lives in is very similar to what a communist society is like because of the way characters act. In a communist society, people cannot freely speak, anything that is deemed to be offensive against the government essentially means certain death for the person who mouthed those offensive words. The government is believed to always be right and everything they do is an order that must be followed, even if it means suicide.

There have been many people who have gone against the orders of the government and spoke against the government only to meet death. People who revolt against the government or learn too much about the outside world and decide to leave are punished. In the story a young man named Harrison Bergeron previously was imprisoned for being too smart and too good looking, this relates to how a communist society would treat their citizens. In the America that the story takes place in, being too good looking and too smart creates an imbalance which in turn may affect government operations. In a communist society if anyone is deemed a threat to the government or creates an imbalance in society, they are executed. Harrison escapes prison, as soon as he escapes a public warning is broadcasted onto every TV with Harrison’s face on it. Harrison’s father, George, recognizes that Harrison was the person who has escaped from prison, however, as soon as he recognizes this he is blasted by a dreadful sound into his ear causing him to forgot his train of thought. This is done so that anyone who is smart enough to even think of revolting against the government would not be able to do it because they cannot physically keep their train of thought. As soon as George forgets his train of thought, the author puts the Harrison back into the spotlight. The reader is introduced to a scene where Harrison takes off and runs into a studio where a live broadcast of a dance was occurring to shout, “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.” (Page 4). Harrison has multiple handicaps on him which means he must be a bit more than just above average.

Harrison removes his handicap harness that could hold five thousand pounds and smashes his ear piece, breaks his head harness and spectacles. Once Harrison removes these handicaps he can finally do things that he could never have done before. Similarly the citizens of communist societies can become what they can instead of what the government says they can become if they were to also revolt against their government and take off their form of “handicaps” of restricted speech and 24/7 monitoring through their tapped phones and surveillance cameras everywhere. In the story, Harrison not only screams that he is the emperor, but he also screams that he is going to pick his empress by picking whoever dares to raise their feet first which is himself declaring a revolt against the government. It’s amazing that a girl actually put her foot out knowing full well that the consequences of associating herself with a criminal could be fatal. Many communist societies where some citizens would create uproar and start a revolt. After picking his empress, he snaps her handicaps as well as snapping the musician’s handicaps in order for them to play better. While all of this was happening, it was being broadcasted live on television where everyone at home could see. Shortly after the music began, both the emperor and empress start dancing, they dance to the point where the laws of gravity no longer defined them and they started floating. As they floated in the air, they started kissing, for a very long time. It was then that the handicapper general, Diana Moon Glampers, comes into the studio and shoots them both to death on live tv. People at home saw everything, Harrison’s parents were included in the crowd that saw what had happened. Harrison’s mother started crying and when asked why by George, she replied she didn’t know why . This is due to the brain numbing from the government. Communist societies are very similar in this aspect of brainwashing and even turning family against each other.

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A Social Inequality According to Harrison Bergeron By Kurt Vonnegut

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Completely Equal Society is a Myth

Since the genesis of time people have strived to achieve complete equality. We have tried to give people “equal rights” nonetheless; it has failed to create perfect uniformity. Now imagine the world where the government has created rules and regulations that bring people down to the same level. Imagine what would happen if the government decided to create equality through regulating people’s intelligence, wealth, power, and attractiveness. It might sound like a perfect place to live in until we don’t go into the depths of this ideal society. Imagine how a government would accomplish this mission of creating a society which upholds equality and uniformity while putting down outstanding behaviors and traits. The answer to that question can be found in a short dystopian fiction story called (Harrison Bergeron), written by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The story sets the plot in 2081. Keeping in mind the story was first published in 1961, the plot is set way ahead in the future where the world is not progressing. The reason for this stoppage in progression for the society as a whole is the fact that equality is being imposed forcefully. The story revolves around a Handicapper General named Diana Moon Glampers, who is responsible for maintaining equality amongst people. Glampers has achieved this task by requiring strong, intelligent and beautiful people of the society to wear handicaps of ugly masks, earphones or radios, and heavyweights correspondingly. This brought people that were intelligent, beautiful and strong down to the level of people that were less intelligent, ugly and weak. A glimpse of the world Diana Moon Glampers created can be seen when Kurt Vonnegut Jr., quotes in his story “Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” (Harrison Bergeron). On the other hand, Harrison Bergeron son of Hazel and George Bergeron is trying to gain his freedom by breaking loose from his handicaps. However at the end, Harrison has to pay for his desire to outstand with his death at the hands of Handicapper General, who once again restores equality in the society. The story shows us how having an ideal equal society would do more harm to individuals than do good. By taking away our emotions, knowledge and individuality, the society is devoid of outlandish creativity and thinking. Thus, the world that is equal in every way possible is just not the right world for us to live in. Limiting our creativity and stopping us from being different from the person next to us, will only cause harm. Regardless of the pros and cons of having a uniform equal world, it is just not possible to achieve such a goal. It is human nature to express and be different from the person next to us. If this desire to be different is chained, sooner or later human nature will resist this idea of equality as shown by Harrison Bergeron.

Kurt Vonnegut is praised by many critics as stated “…many critics continue to praise Vonnegut as a ‘masterly stylist,” a jazz improviser in prose, and an author who has reinvented the American novel” (Kurt Vonnegut). Although Kurt Vonnegut was a talented writer, he has not made an effort to describe characters in a way most short-stories would. Moreover, the flow of the story is monotonous and there is little plot setting. This is because the story is based on the world that is equal in every single aspect, which has taken away peoples’ uniqueness. The fact that everyone is the same, just limits the ability of creativity and outstanding behavior to protrude not only in the world, but also in the representation of the story. This leaves little to no space for Vonnegut to create a fabulous character with exaggerated traits. In the story, Hazel did not wear any handicaps, although George wears a radio in his ear and weight around his neck because he was more intelligent and powerful than Hazel. Hence, proving that everything is not equal even in a world where perfect uniformity is the top priority. Moreover, the characters in the story were able to learn about the strengths of other people through their handicaps. This was because the characters knew what strengths each handicap, issued by Handicapper General, was supposed to suppress. A handicap such as the Earphones symbolized that a person was smart; the Mask symbolized a person was beautiful, and the Weights symbolized a person was physically strong. Bigger and conspicuous handicaps meant that a person was more exceptional than the rest of the society. Thus individuality cannot be extinguished as Benjamin Reed writes in (Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice) “The attempt to achieve forced equality through social engineering—by delimiting positive qualities rather than ameliorating shortcomings—is futile, because individuality is inherent and only incompletely repressible.” This is true because the handicaps acted as a symbol of a person’s abilities, hence individuality still survived in the characters subconsciously. It is quite ironic how the Handicapper General set out to limit individuality but ended up helping it standout even more.

There were handicaps that were made to suppress abilities in people, which took away curiosity and emotions from them. While being handicapped by these instruments, a person became really monotone and mundane displayed by how conversations became dull and less intriguing between Hazel and Gorge. This can be seen in the story when George would reply to Hazel mostly with ‘Yup’, ‘Huh’ and ‘Um’. This shows how effective communication was hindered by the thought suppressing handicaps. Moreover, in the story, it is seen multiple times how George’s thought process was interrupted by the excruciating sounds the radio in his ear would play. Joodaki, Abdol Hossein, and Hamideh Mahdiany in their journal quote “E. J. White in her article on “A Philosophical and methodological route to dialogue and difference” says “….the dangerous consequences on mono-logism are “the loss of freedom.” (Joodaki and Mahdiany). This was the case seen in this story, through the monologue of the characters and dull dance showed on the television Kurt Vonnegut was able to depict a society which has lost its freedom of speech and expression. However, some parts of the story suggest that even with handicaps, George who possessed greater intellectual abilities than Hazel had not lost his power of reasoning and imagination. As it can be seen when Hazel suggests George to make a hole in his weight bag and take out some bird shots in order lessen the weight, to this George replies “Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out, I don’t call that a bargain.” (Harrison Bergeron). This proves the latter statement to be correct as George was still able to reason his way out of that predicament because if he did not have the ability to reason he would have done what his wife suggested. Furthermore, through the language used by George, it can be said he still had the power of imagination. For an instance when George thought about ballerinas being beautiful and graceful he was able to think that because ballerinas were masked and burdened with birdshot bags. His power of imagination can be seen again when he describes Harrison as a walking junkyard, or when he described the sound of his ear radio as “somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” (Harrison Bergeron) All in all, these examples show and relate back to the point of when imagination and creativity are chained, the individual is still able to think and reason even though he is not supposed to. This shows how creating an equal society by imposing such laws would just not work as the human mind and nature lean towards individualism and rebel when being contained.

The emotions, however, were deeply affected. Emotions are the medium through which we generally feel the intensity of an event. Throughout the story, the conversation between Hazel and George remained dull and flat. There were no emotions between them whatsoever; there were no highs and lows in their pitch or their statements. The uniqueness of an individual was indeed present but was subconscious. The environment of an “equally handicapped America” was unappealing, cold and emotionless. The music had lost its appeal, as it was made to sound average. Music gained back its appeal on when Harrison forced the musicians to play his desired music. Lastly, Harrison’s parents witnessed his death but they quickly forgot what had happened, George forgot it due to his handicaps and Hazel due to her short-term memory. Kurt Vonnegut through these symbols and the story wants the readers to realize that a place that is ‘perfectly equal’ might just become a place without love and individuality. As no love was seen in the conversation between George and Hazel, there was no sympathetic appeal seen after Harrison’s death and it was as if nothing happened. Nonetheless, emotions were still there as musicians knew how to play good music and Hazel cried when she witnessed her son’s death. This, once again, shows how even though individualism and emotions are sought to be eliminated but they are just suppressed and are ever present, ready to resurface at any given moment.

On the other hand, Harrison proved to be rebellious; a quality which people of his time had lost. People were portrayed to be too scared of the Handicapper General and her men. The example can be seen in the story when everyone quickly wore their handicaps in mere five seconds given to them by the Handicapper General after Harrison’s death. Harrison was constantly outgrowing his handicaps. He was described as very powerful, athletic and smart. Harrison’s part in the story was the only time the story outgrew the shades of black and white in which it was painted. Kurt Vonnegut showcased his writing abilities to create drama and analogy when the joy Harrison’s dance bought in the melancholy world was described by him as “They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun. They leaped like deer on the moon” (Harrison Bergeron). Alas! Harrison was killed for trying to be himself. Moreover comparing this notion with today’s society one might see a small degree of similarity as society generally does not accept people that are ‘different’. Even though the world was brought back to equality, through Harrison’s ill-timed death, it still leaves a void behind to be filled. It makes one wonder that if Harrison turned out to be a rebel, what if there are others like him and what if they come out to protest together with a greater strength than Harrison. Bravo! Kurt Vonnegut proves his writing skills once again by leaving behind his point-of-view through Harrison.

The short dystopian story written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has a very dull tone yet it is intriguing, perhaps because everyone wants to know what a ‘perfectly equal’ world would look like. The author does a great job by occasionally including hyperboles and analogies which do a great job in keep the readers intrigued. The symbolic characters, such as Glampers being the oppressor, Hazel and George being the oppressed and Harrison being a freedom fighter, showed how the world has lived under oppression and fought against it with the little ‘freedom fighter’ they had inside them. Through the dystopia, the story is able to make one appreciate the individuality, emotions and love they have. “Harrison Bergeron” makes its readers appreciate their freedom of speech and expression, which furthermore makes a statement that their individuality, emotions and uniqueness cannot be completely taken away from them. The story makes the readers live through a nightmare so that they acknowledge the importance of their uniqueness and think about a superior and greater meaning of equality.

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A Dystopian Society in Harrison Bergeron Story

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Known for publishing numerous satirical works, Kurt Vonnegut continues this writing trend in his short story “Harrison Bergeron”. Vonnegut writes about a dystopian society in the future and although the events in the story are serious, it can be found humorous when comparing the story to reality. For example, the idea of handicapism is constantly brought up. In the story, handicapism is when a member of society who is above average, wears a government product to create equality, forcing him or her to be average. Complete equality, however, may not be as good as it sounds. In “Harrison Bergeron”, Kurt Vonnegut exposes the many negative aspects of an overly equal society through the use of humor, irony, satire, and symbolism. These literary devices allow the reader to easily identify its downfalls while naturally drawing parallels to our own society.

Imagine a world where everyone was equal; not one person being smarter or stronger than the other. In Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, the Handicapper General created a system for equality to ensure that not one person has an advantage over another. The year is 2081 and all who are intelligent are required to wear radios that play sounds frequently to interrupt the train of thought, forcing them to think averagely. People who are stronger than the average person, must wear weights on his or her shoulders to be sure that his or her strength is equal to average. Someone who is attractive even has to wear a mask on his or her face which is shown during the televised ballerina production. As far as the readers know, this system is effective until George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen year old, Harrison, rebels. Harrison was taken from his family because of his superiority. He was assigned to wear 300 pound weights, huge earphones, glasses to blind him and induce headaches, a rubber nose, caps for his teeth, and his eyebrows are shaved. Harrison escapes from the government, goes to the ballerina performance, rips off all of his handicaps, and takes charge. He announces “I am the emperor! Everybody must do as I say at once!” (Vonnegut 234). Harrison selects an empress who removes her handicaps as well until Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicap General, kills them both with a shotgun.

Kurt Vonnegut’s writing, in general, is considered humorous. P. L. Thomas refers to Vonnegut in his article Lost In Adaptation, as a “jokemaker”. Thomas also refers to Vonnegut clarifying that his humor is not intended to offend any of his readers. Vonnegut proclaims, “Laughter is the soul seeking some relief” (Thomas 85). Vonnegut creates humor in “Harrison Bergeron” by almost poking fun at the meaning of being handicap. When a person is handicap, it usually is not by choice, it is something one is born with or develops due to a potential tragedy. In the story however, handicaps are forced upon the above average to create equality in order to the below average from feeling bad about themselves. This concept is so clever that it is humorous. The handicaps and humour also tie together when George and Hazel are watching TV, and see their boy get killed, but due to Hazel’s natural stupidity and George’s handicap, the couple is unable to remember what caused the feelings of grief and sorrow. It’s as if Hazel and George almost forget their son exists.

Some may be a little confused when reading “Harrison Bergeron” because of the idea of handicapism he or she may already have. Handicaps generally create sympathy and people who suffer are encouraged to overcome his or her handicaps. Ironically, this idea is twisted in this overly equal society. The handicaps are supposed to encourage the inferior to feel better about themselves, by making others feel worse about themselves. One of the most messed up parts to this concept is that the Handicap General is clearly superior to all, but isn’t required to wear any handicaps. She is pushing for a equal society by simultaneously looking down at everyone else because they are below her. In Anderson’s “American Humor, Handicapism, and Censorship”, she explains how some may poke fun at the disabled and will look down on them (Anderson 79). However, in “Harrison Bergeron”, society almost looks up to people with handicaps. Those people are the ones who are originally superior. Society will also look up to the average or below average. For example, Hazel notices how the reporter had to pass the microphone down to a ballerina to read the news because of a speech impediment. Hazel makes a comment about how the reporter deserves a raise for trying even though he couldn’t complete his job (Vonnegut 233). Using irony, Vonnegut portrays the negative aspects of being too equal.

Satire is used throughout “Harrison Bergeron” and found in many of Kurt Vonnegut’s literature. It can be described as using humor and irony to expose and criticize. “In Harrison Bergeron the theme of this satire is that attempts to achieve equality are absurd” (Hattenhauer 387). Hattenhauer idea that the attempts to achieve equality are absurd relates to my thesis. I find it very hard to believe that a society would allow someone to take over and tear people apart by degrading them with weights and radios. Of course, this is only fiction, but leave it to Vonnegut to go beyond. Hattenhauer also compares this story to politics. He says that it tends to favor one side while attempting to maintain equality. In this case, the Handicapper General is being favored because she isn’t directly affected by her laws (Hattenhauer 388). Although Vonnegut is being humorous, he is indirectly pointing out a flaw in reality in the case of politics, doing so using satire.

Many traces of symbolism can be found in this short story if one is looking close enough. For example, on page 232 of “Harrison Bergeron”, Hazel suggest that on Sunday’s, she would make sure chimes were played on the radios in honor of religion if she was the Handicapper General and would make them real loud so the people hearing the noises can’t think. Symbolically, it has been said that churches brainwash to enforce ideas and beliefs. Kevin Boon shares a similar thought in his book, “At Millennium’s End”. He explains the idea, “if religion is chimed in our ears loud enough, we will lose the ability to think, and we will all become the same” (Boon 189). In the long run, losing the ability to think for oneself or being smart, how is a society supposed to grow? In the next generations, the members of society will be completely brainwashed and dependent on a leader, but who is to lead after Diana Moon Glampers passes away since no one is smarter than another. It seems that the society will die out and it was only a matter of time before someone noticed this and rebelled [Harrison]. Hopefully, some were able to catch on from the audience at the ballet and start a revolution in honor of Harrison Bergeron since he is longer able to. Harrison, himself, symbolized an uprising by showing that someone else can be a leader and that it is unnecessary to have that much equality. Vonnegut uses symbols to show the dangers of an overly equal society.

Through the use of humor, irony, satire, and symbolism, “Harrison Bergeron” can be better understood by connecting and comparing to reality. This society is a dystopia meaning it is an imaginary, unpleasant place. Vonnegut does a good job of showing the ridiculousness of this society through humor and satire. He also connects the noises that are heard through the radios and the meaning of church bells using irony and symbolism. By comparing this society to the United States of America, it can be concluded that many would rebel just as Harrison Bergeron did.

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Equality in America Represented in Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

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.

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Individuals Status in the Society

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

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.

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The Use of Irony to Emphasize Human Nature in Stephen King’s Popsy and Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

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.

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The Dangers of Equality: a Close Reading of “Harrison Bergeron”

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

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.

Work Cited

“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.

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“Harrison Bergeron”: a Story vs a Film

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

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.

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Issues Of Lost Authority, Television, And Forced Equality In Harrison Bergeron Kurt Vonnegut

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

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.

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