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    A View on the Short Story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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    Harrison Bergeron, a short story by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., is a narrative about equality. No one is better than anyone else. No one is above anyone else. The beautiful don hideous masks, the intelligent wear a mental handicap radio in their ear, and the strong carry weights on their body. Harrison Bergeron attempts to save the people from an already disastrous country. The story was written in 1961 — the time of the Cold War. Vonnegut adds politics along with irony to lead his audience into an anti-communist mindset.

    In the story, Vonnegut addresses the totalitarian society caused by the 211th, 212th, and the 213th Amendments in the Constitution. In Foster’s, How to Read Literature Like a Professor chapter 13, “It’s All Political”, he says that all stories have a political background behind them. This is shown in “Harrison Bergeron” when Vonnegut includes the government in the first paragraph. The society takes communism from controlling what people do, to making everyone literally the same.

    Vonnegut uses the story to show that all people are not created equal. Just because some people aren’t as smart or strong doesn’t mean we should place a handicap on their more capable citizens. He also shows the problems with government becoming too powerful, even if it is for the good of the people. Diana Moon Glampers, the United States Handicapper General, is trying to control the “communist” society. It just goes to show that eventually, a Harrison Bergeron will prove that total equality is a mistaken goal.

    Kurt Vonnegut makes Harrison Bergeron into a Christ figure. According to Foster in chapter 14 “Yes, She’s a Christ Figure, Too”, a Christ figure is a self-sacrificing figure who comes to redeem an unworthy world, which is exactly what Harrison Bergeron attempts to do in the story. He escapes to save everyone from what he sees as a corrupt society. However, everyone is blind to his views because they believe that everything the government does is for equality, which makes the society a better place.

    This shows that Harrison Bergeron is trying to redeem the “unworthy world”. Ultimately, he fails as he is killed by the Handicapper General, but this allows him to be the self-sacrificing Christ figure. Quite ironic. Foster uses chapter 26 “Is He Serious? And Other Ironies” to convey that irony trumps everything. The reader automatically assumes that Harrison Bergeron will complete his goal, but instead he is killed. The irony shows that instead of a “happily ever after” ending, George and Hazel (and the whole society) completely forget what they had just watched and it’s very anti-climatic. However, Vonnegut is able to use irony to show that a communist society will never change with a nation full of mindless robots. Everyone will continue to be equal unless they all decide to change.

    Earlier, it was mentioned that the society is blind. Of course, they are not physically blind. In Foster’s chapter 22 “He’s Blind for a Reason, You Know”, he mentions figurative blindness which is exactly what George and Hazel are. Hazel is “average”, meaning that she is very slow, doesn’t understand much, and forgets just about everything. She doesn’t, and can’t, choose to be blind. George is willingly blind, as he is much more intelligent than Hazel and can think for himself.

    However, he chooses to give up his sight for equality. This makes Harrison Bergeron the only person with sight because he is the only person who sees how wrong the society is. The government tries to blind him with a mental handicap radio in his ear so he can’t think and glasses to prevent him from seeing, but Harrison is still able to see the truth. The government represents extreme communism, meaning that no one is better than anyone else.

    The story of “Harrison Bergeron” shows that total equality is not an ideal worth aiming for, especially at the cost of individual achievement and freedom. Vonnegut tries to influence the reader to his anti-communist beliefs and encourage them to prevent this dystopian society. It is important for everyone to be a Harrison Bergeron, someone who sacrifices himself to do what is right. In a world of Hazels and Georges, what will change?

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    A View on the Short Story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.. (2022, Dec 13). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/a-view-on-the-short-story-harrison-bergeron-by-kurt-vonnegut-jr/

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