"Harrison Bergeron" is a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. that describes a dystopian future in which the government enforces perfect equality among its citizens, even if it means handicapping those who are above average in certain areas. The story is full of irony, as the government's efforts to create a utopia ultimately result in a society that is far from perfect.
An excerpt from "Harrison Bergeron" that best illustrates irony is when Harrison Bergeron, who is the only character in the story who is not handicapped, bursts into a television studio and declares himself emperor. In this scene, Harrison is dressed in all his glory, with "scrap metal" and "bearskin" and "mask and cape" and "gong" and "sash," and proclaims, "I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!" (Vonnegut, 1961). The irony lies in the fact that Harrison, who is supposed to be the embodiment of everything that is wrong with society, is the only one who can see the truth.
This excerpt is an example of irony even more by the fact that Harrison is quickly shot dead by the Handicapper General, the very person who is supposed to be enforcing the government's ideal of perfect equality. The fact that the Handicapper General is willing to kill Harrison in order to maintain the status quo is a testament to the extreme lengths to which the government will go in order to enforce its version of perfection.
In conclusion, the entire story of "Harrison Bergeron" is steeped in irony, as the government's attempts to create a perfect society lead to a world that is far from perfect. However, the scene in which Harrison declares himself emperor and is then killed by the Handicapper General is perhaps the most ironic moment in the story, as it underscores the tragic consequences of the government's misguided efforts.
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