Harrison Bergeron Theme

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Absolute equality and its imposition on society

Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron” presents a variety of themes during the development of the plot. The primary theme of the story is the way a man with authority experiences a danger from those who they are controlling and how total equality is imposed in the society. During the reading, we can understand that the action is taking place in the United States of America in 2081, where the 211th, 212th, 213th amendments claim that people with more distinguished abilities than ordinary must wear handicaps so that others can consider themselves on the same level as them. “They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal in every way”. As the reader begins to dive into the story, they suddenly discover that Vonnegut is using certain elements of satire and irony. This is demonstrated in the situation that there are more than a hundred Amendments in society that make it perfect. Further on in the story, George and Hazel are sitting in the living room when George’s handicaps are hurting him and causing him to feel uncomfortable. Hazel suggests that George should violate the law and have his handicaps removed while he stays at home, because he is not competing with anybody. As a reply, George argues that if he were to violate the law, others would follow suit, and they would be back in the Dark Ages. Through these examples, readers are exposed to the idea that society is not complete in every sense. Absolute equality, especially in terms of appearance, intelligence and physical fitness, clearly does not construct a flawless society. Competition is a crucial driver for the successful development of a state. In each and every nation, there must be people who managed to succeed and those who failed.

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The relationship between communism and social order in the story

More than that, the society in this narrative is related to a communist society. The underlying philosophy of communism is to ensure that those in society have the identical amount of rights and benefits as those surrounding them. The framework of a Harrison Bergeron society is not the same as a communist society, but they have many common features. In Harrison Bergeron, the government was vested with great power, and all citizens were required to obey the laws. Communism is likewise quite distinct from the U.S. government and operates in different ways. For example, Diane Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, is responsible for seeing that those who are higher than average are handicapped and that they obey the laws of that society. Those who break the law will be tracked down and as a result of revolt will be murdered and executed. This is illustrated in the story when Hazel and George Bergeron’s son, Harrison Bergeron, is sent to jail because he possesses all the challenging features that a person can possess, disables his handicaps, and breaks out of his camera. Diana later fires at Harrison and slaughters him on broadcast television. People in Communist society are supposed to be equal in relation to each other, while people in Kurt Vonnegut’s society are compelled to be equally horrible in all respects. Harrison Bergeron was created in 1961 when everyone was worried that the United States would also turn into a communist country. People who revolt and disobey the law in a communist country can be severely penalized, imprisoned, and even murdered just like Harrison. This can equally serve as an illustration of how a man in power can be corrupt, and how if he feels under a threat from those he governs, he will perform everything he can to prevent the people from taking over.

The reference to Fahrenheit 451

Ultimately, Kurt Vonnegut portrays the image of dystopia during the whole story and even refers to Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” regarding the enactment of laws that limit its citizens. An instance of resemblance between the two stories would be the way in which the government realized the drive for equality that people possess and exploits this to hold society to a level of lower than average intelligence, with both stories being set in the future. In Fahrenheit 451, the main character Guy Montag is a fireman who burns books rather than fighting fires. This restricts people of knowledge just like in “Harrison Bergeron”. To say nothing of the fact that in Fahrenheit 451, a girl called Clarissa, Montag’s neighbor, was murdered for reading a book, basically, she was murdered just as Harrison was murdered for getting rid of his handicaps. These stories demonstrate the harsh and cruel laws that have been passed by those in power to hold those beneath them at a distance.

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The use of satire throughout the story

Moreover, Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron”, employs the shape of satire across the story to reveal that the futuristic America desires to be equal, but in fact the irony of the matter is that those who are restricted and monitored are not actually equal to those surrounding them.

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