Harrison Bergeron

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“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is a story literally exaggerated to its limit by showing, in the near future, what it means to be equal in every way by having people not being able to show any form of intelligence or creativity whatsoever. When Harrison Bergeron breaks the chains of government oppression, he dies for his failed cause. He dies because he chooses not to conform to the rest of his oppressive society. His parents, George and Hazel, who are nothing more than two bodies under the government’s mind control, can do nothing to save their son or seek justice for his death. The story is not only a reflection of the author’s concern with controlling the masses through television, but is also an attack on the idea of enforced equality.

The use of television of controlling people is a major theme in “Harrison Bergeron.” Vonnegut portrays television as a “dehumanizing” process in which people will be unable to think for themselves, instead of developing mental sharpness and clarity. Literary critic Joseph Alvarez says about Harrison’s attempt of overtaking the television station, “Harrison’s power to reach the people and make a new reality (declaring himself emperor), Vonnegut agrees, stems from controlling television” (2). Harrison is aware that by going to the television station is the best way to begin his rebellion. As for dehumanizing people, the violence and murder that occur on television are extreme in Vonnegut’s world it eliminates emotions. When Hazel sees her son murdered on television, she simply says to George it was “Something real sad on television” (143). It is true she cries while watching her son’s murder, but she has become so desensitized that she cannot recall why she is crying. Literary critic Robert Uphaus in his essay entitled “Expected Meaning in Vonnegut’s Dead-End Fiction,” states “The history of mankind, Vonnegut implies in the story, is a progressive...
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