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Dystopian Short Story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut

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Words: 710 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 5, 2023

Words: 710|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 5, 2023

Ancient German Philosopher, Georg Christoph once said, “Equality which we demand is the most tolerant degree of inequality.” For centuries, humankind has diligently worked towards an equal society, but what happens when such concept becomes wicked and dangerous? In the short story, “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. all citizens have been granted equality in an exaggerated literal sense. People were equal not only before god and the law but “in every which way”. As a result, no one was authorized to be smarter, better looking, faster, or even stronger. To guarantee ultimate equality, General Handicapper of the United States enforces handicaps upon citizens who possessed unacceptable above-average traits. Such forms of handicaps include ugly masks for the beautiful, weights to slow the strong, and mental devices for the exceptionally smart. The story’s protagonist, Harrison Bergeron, who is an overly gifted and defiant 14- year old boy, holds an importance over keeping his oneness, thus resulting in his imprisonment and death by antagonist Handicapper General Diana Moore. Filled with dystopian themes, Vonnegut argues that total equality is an ideal that has detrimental effects on humankind.

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The setting of the story is set to be America in the year 2081, which helps build a futuristic society where certain measures of control are placed upon citizens. The setting also brings importance to Harrison Bergeron’s character development as he goes from being a trapped individual in an equal society to a free one. Throughout the story, the excessive use of handicaps is used to make all citizens ordinary and average. By implementing handicaps on people’s body, they become acceptable and equal. This is demonstrated in Harrison’s parents, George and Hazel, who share different characteristics, but with the use of handicaps become uniformed. Both characters are described as different to portray the two types of individuals in this society, the tamed to be average and the born ordinary. George represented the tamed, as he was forced by law to wear a mental handicap radio that would disrupt his thought process every 20 seconds because he was highly intelligent and strong. Whereas, Hazel who was like any ordinary American, didn’t have to wear handicaps but was so naturally intellectually deficient that “she couldn’t think of anything except in short bursts”. For George to be equal to Hazel, he had to be dumb downed intensely, thus resulting in him not being able to produce profound thoughts and overthink absolutely anything. For instance, when George was watching the ballet broadcasted on television, he had a brief thought that “maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear scattered his thoughts”. Subconsciously, George questioned the purpose of handicaps but when his conscious mind started to think of abstract concepts, intense sounds which George emphasizes as sounding like “somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball been hammer” emitted threw his handicap radio and disrupted him from thinking anything that could potentially harm the balance of the equal society As a means to make society equal, people were involuntarily and unknowingly giving up their freedom of expression, thus losing their identity and individuality , “ no one is actually a ONE, they are all forced into apparent equality and have no unique personally.”

Moreover, a dystopian theme exercised throughout the short story is the power of technology. In this new era, television worked as another mechanism to brainwash and desensitize people, as it kept them deeply enthralled almost in a hypnotized state. For instance, when Hazel and George were viewing television, Hazel had tears on her cheeks, but she wasn’t but because her focus deeply invested on what was being broadcasted on the television, she didn’t comprehend the reason behind her sadness and tears. Similar reaction occurred when she witnessed her son Harrison, die on live television but the only reasoning she could explain for her crying was that she “had seen something real sad on television”. Hazel was incapable both emotionally and mentally of realizing that the “real sad” thing she had seen on television was her own child being killed, “ these people cant have a word in any part of their lives or the social issues; they can even recognize their son and Hazel can’t tell why she’s crying.”

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Dystopian Short Story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. (2023, January 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/dystopian-short-story-harrison-bergeron-by-kurt-vonnegut/
“Dystopian Short Story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut.” GradesFixer, 05 Jan. 2023, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/dystopian-short-story-harrison-bergeron-by-kurt-vonnegut/
Dystopian Short Story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/dystopian-short-story-harrison-bergeron-by-kurt-vonnegut/> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Dystopian Short Story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Jan 05 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/dystopian-short-story-harrison-bergeron-by-kurt-vonnegut/
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