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Point of View in Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"

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Words: 850 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 850|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

What is the author's point of view in "Harrison Bergeron?" This question arises a few times throughout the text, as Kurt Vonnegut presents a dystopian society where everyone is forced to be equal in every aspect. In this essay, we will explore Vonnegut's point of view in "Harrison Bergeron" by analyzing various aspects of the text. We will examine the author's use of irony, satire, and symbolism to convey his perspective on the dangers of extreme equality and the suppression of individuality. By delving into these elements, we will gain a deeper understanding of Vonnegut's message and the impact it has on the reader.

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Vonnegut skillfully employs irony throughout "Harrison Bergeron" to convey his point of view on the dangers of forced equality. One example of this can be seen in the character of Harrison himself. Despite being portrayed as a threat to society due to his exceptional abilities, Harrison is ironically presented as a hero. Vonnegut writes, "Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds" (Vonnegut). This exaggerated portrayal of Harrison's strength and defiance serves as a critique of the society's obsession with equality, as it ultimately undermines the potential for greatness and progress.

Furthermore, Vonnegut's use of irony extends to the portrayal of the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers. As the enforcer of equality, Glampers ironically embodies the very inequality she seeks to eliminate. Despite her position of power, Glampers is described as wearing "a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses" (Vonnegut). This depiction highlights the hypocrisy within the society, where those in authority can exempt themselves from the burden of enforced equality. Through these instances of irony, Vonnegut effectively conveys his point of view that extreme equality leads to a stagnant and oppressive society.

Vonnegut's use of satire in "Harrison Bergeron" further reinforces his point of view on the dangers of extreme equality. Through satirical elements, the author criticizes the notion that absolute equality is desirable or achievable. One example of satire can be seen in the portrayal of the television program that showcases the handicapped citizens. Vonnegut writes, "The studio audience [...] had been chosen by lottery. A woman named Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts" (Vonnegut). This satirical depiction highlights the absurdity of a society that values mediocrity and actively suppresses intellectual growth.

Additionally, Vonnegut employs satire to critique the notion of enforced equality by exaggerating the handicaps imposed upon the citizens. For instance, George Bergeron, Harrison's father, is burdened with various handicaps to suppress his above-average intelligence. Vonnegut writes, "George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear" (Vonnegut). This satirical depiction serves as a critique of the society's attempt to level the playing field by hindering individual potential and excellence. Through satire, Vonnegut conveys his point of view that enforced equality ultimately stifles progress and hinders the development of society.

Symbolism is another powerful tool utilized by Vonnegut to convey his point of view in "Harrison Bergeron." One prominent symbol in the story is the handicaps themselves, which represent the suppression of individuality and the leveling of differences. These handicaps, ranging from weights to masks to earpieces, symbolize the society's fear of diversity and its relentless pursuit of equality. Vonnegut writes, "Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else" (Vonnegut). This symbolic representation emphasizes the negative consequences of extreme equality, as it erases the unique qualities that make individuals who they are.

Another significant symbol in the story is Harrison Bergeron himself. Harrison represents the potential for greatness and rebellion against oppressive systems. His physical appearance, described as "a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous" (Vonnegut). This symbolizes the threat that individuality poses to a society obsessed with equality. By showcasing Harrison's defiance and refusal to conform, Vonnegut highlights the importance of individual freedom and the dangers of suppressing it. Through these symbols, the author effectively conveys his point of view that extreme equality leads to the loss of individuality and the stifling of progress.

In conclusion, Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" presents a dystopian society where extreme equality is enforced, ultimately suppressing individuality and hindering progress. Through the use of irony, satire, and symbolism, Vonnegut conveys his point of view on the dangers of this societal structure. The ironic portrayal of Harrison as a hero and the Handicapper General as an unequal enforcer highlight the negative consequences of extreme equality. The satirical elements in the story critique the pursuit of mediocrity and the suppression of intellectual growth. The symbolism of the handicaps and the character of Harrison symbolize the loss of individuality and the potential for greatness. By analyzing these elements, we gain a deeper understanding of Vonnegut's point of view and the impact it has on the reader. Ultimately, "Harrison Bergeron" serves as a cautionary tale, urging us to consider the importance of individuality and the dangers of extreme equality.

Bibliography:

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Vonnegut, Kurt. "Harrison Bergeron." Harper's Magazine, vol. 273, no. 1636, 1961, pp. 61-65.

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Point of View in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/point-of-view-in-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/
“Point of View in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/point-of-view-in-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/
Point of View in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/point-of-view-in-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Point of View in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/point-of-view-in-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/
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