And Equality for All
The short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. revolves around a society where everyone is equal. The story is set in the United States in the year 2081 and focuses around the story of George, Hazel, and their son, Harrison. In this society, there are amendments to the constitution that forces equality on society. These amendments require that beautiful people wear masks, intelligent people wear noise emitting headphones to distract their thoughts, and the strong are literally weighted down. Their son, Harrison, is one of the gifted ones. He is physically fit, intelligent, and attractive. Because of these traits the government has forced him to wear a mask, restraints, and thought scrambling devices. Hazel and George don't fully understand the ramifications of their son's imprisonment because George's thoughts are disrupted and Hazel is too "average" to understand what is happening. Eventually, Harrison breaks free from his chains and declares himself emperor of this society but is immediately shot down by Diana Glampers head of the Handicapper General. Through satire, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. shows how disruptive government control can be in a society and how it impedes individuality.
Their are four main characters in this story, George, Hazel, Harrison, and Diana. Each of the characters adds a different dimension to the story. George and Hazel represent opposite ends of the intelligence spectrum as perceived by the government. Hazel is considered weak because she is of below average intelligence and not deemed a threat by the Handicapper General so she wears no handicaps. Her husband George, on the other hand, has above average intelligence and is forced to wear a transmitter. They toy with the idea of removing some of the handicaps from George, but he reminds Hazel that "if I tried to get away with it then other people'd get away with it and pretty soon we'd be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody...
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