“The story is a satire, a parody of an ideological society divorced from common sense reality” (Townsend). As Townsend stated Kurt Vonnegut makes a satire about society in his fictional short story Harrison Bergeron Essay, which in their society there has been attempt of conformity through the handicaps of the people, the similarity to an authoritarian government, and the technology, whereas the people will eventually overcome.
The Kind if government authority seen both mimics and satirizes the way Americans came to see the enemy (the Soviet Union) during the Cold War, which was near its height of distrust and fear in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
As an attempt to make the economy better Karl Marx a philosopher thought up the philosophy of Communism. A communist government plans and controls the economy, also has an authoritarian that has total control.
Often the authoritarian claims that he will progress toward a higher social order in which the people equally share all goods. Although, the citizens in Harrison Bergeron in the same way “equal every which way” in the economy but, they are also “equal every which way” in physical characteristics (Vonnegut). In which the people know that they are unequal and that is why they have the handicaps.
A handicap as stated in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, in a “race or contest an artificial advantage is given or disadvantage imposed on a person to equalize chances of winning” (Merriam). In Harrison Bergeron the handicaps that are given to the people are not for a competition in a game, but are for a competition in life. The handicaps are based on what the individual citizens is better at and what they are not.
For example, George one of the characters in the story, for whom is very intelligent and sharp. Because, he’s so intelligent his handicap has to be a device that has a loud distinct beep that disturbs his train of thought every twenty minutes. George also has a bag of lead balls that weigh him down. The irony of the so call handicaps is that the people of this nation like George will get use to their handicaps. After a while a person will get use to the weight and learn to think faster than twenty seconds
Technology is one of the main means of communication and entertainment. Such entertainment is television, which was invented by John Baird in 1926.
In a Newton Minow speech he states that “violence as a contributor to this wasteland” he lists what people see on the television and what they take from it. In the story Harrison s mother watches her son on the television he get shot to death and does not even remember what she saw five minutes later. After the commotion was over she says, ;I could tell that one was a doozy;(Vonnegut). That is what television does to a person that is intellectually impaired.
Harrison Bergeron is satire of today’s society he makes this satire applicable through the handicaps of the people, the similarity authoritarian government, and the technology. As a result of these factors that have been stated the people of “Harrison Bergeron” will eventually overcome the barriers of the government.
Alvarez, Joseph, “Overview of Harrison Bergeron’,” in Exploring Short stories, Gale Research, 1998.
Historical Context: “Harrison Bergeron”. “EXPLORING Short Stories, Online Edition. Gale, 2003 Student Resource Center.
Vonnegut, Kurt , ” Harrison Bergeron .