Harrison Bergeron By Kurt Vonnegut Essays

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Harrison Bergeron, By Kurt Vonnegut Essay

Harrison Bergeron is a story written by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut’s story is a warning to the world about the quest of equality, which is spreading all round in many nations with America on the lead. The story shows the reader how the equality issue can have negative impacts on people’s individuality, and the society. The story revolves around the protagonist, Harrison Bergeron who is an archetypical symbol that represents defiance, and individuality. He is used to represent the people who will stand up, and protest against cruel laws imposed by the state on equality, and encourage others to protest with him. Through the characterization of Harrison, George and Hazel, Vonnegut shows how the equality idea can go to the extreme. The characters are distracted by handicaps, and this affects their individuality and freedom. Vonnegut expresses his concerns about the issue of equality, and how it is taken to the extreme through his characters.
The setting of the story is in the future, 2081 of what will be happening in the world. The story is told in third person limited point of view, whereby the narrator is not a character in the book. In addition, the narrator does not draw conclusions, make decisions, or make judgments about the events. The objectivity of the narrator suggests a distancing from the hostile world of the story. The tone used by the author is critical, humorous and satirical. The story is full of humor despite the fact that, it is full of dark themes of oppression. Every dark event in the story is accompanied by a light moment of melancholy comedy.
Kurt Vonnegut uses irony in the development of his story Harrison Bergeron, in order to allow the reader to understand the conditions of equality. He opens the first paragraph with sarcastic tones, and then pushes the reader into an equalitarian society. Afterwards, Hazel Bergeron is introduced and gives a sardonic wit about their life, but ironically, she is not handicapped like the rest. Conversely, Hazel’s husband is handicapped with forty-seven pounds of birdshot strapped to his neck, and he is obedient to the government’s handicapped system. Vonnegut uses irony to demonstrate a dysfunctional Utopia in the society. In his story, Vonnegut uses irony to depict how easily a government can control its citizens, by assaulting their senses and individuality.
Harrison Bergeron is a valuable story that has underlying themes, which are very relevant in our current society. The theme of equality can be seen throughout the book, and it is the principle that is enshrined in America’s constitution now, whereby they claim that all men are equal. Kurt Vonnegut demonstrates the issue of equality in a Utopian society. Vonnegut in his story, cautions Americans on the dangers of creating a truly equalitarian society, whereby citizens go to an extent of sacrificing their freedom, and individuality to the state, to create a place where all people are equal. Vonnegut creates a society whereby, all people...

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The Danger of Total Equality

In “Harrison Bergeron,” Vonnegut suggests that total equality is not an ideal worth striving for, as many people believe, but a mistaken goal that is dangerous in both execution and outcome. To achieve physical and mental equality among all Americans, the government in Vonnegut’s story tortures its citizens. The beautiful must wear hideous masks or disfigure themselves, the intelligent must listen to earsplitting noises that impede their ability to think, and the graceful and strong must wear weights around their necks at all hours of the day. The insistence on total equality seeps into the citizens, who begin to dumb themselves down or hide their special attributes. Some behave this way because they have internalized the government’s goals, and others because they fear that the government will punish them severely if they display any remarkable abilities. The outcome of this quest for equality is disastrous. America becomes a land of cowed, stupid, slow people. Government officials murder the extremely gifted with no fear of reprisal. Equality is more or less achieved, but at the cost of freedom and individual achievement.

The Power of Television

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 narrative takes place as George and Hazel sit in front of the TV. Television functions primarily as a sedative for the masses. Hazel’s cheeks are wet with tears, but because she is distracted by the ballerinas on the screen, she doesn’t remember why she is crying. The government also uses television as a way of enforcing its laws. When dangerously talented people like Harrison are on the loose, for example, the government broadcasts warnings about them. They show a photograph of Harrison with his good looks mutilated and his strength dissipated. The photo is a way of identifying the supposedly dangerous escapee, but it is also a way of intimidating television viewers. It gives them a visual example of the handicaps imposed on those who do not suppress their own abilities. Television further turns into a means of terrorizing the citizens when Diana Moon Glampers shoots Harrison. The live execution is an effective way of showing viewers what will happen to those who dare to disobey the law.

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