HARRISON BERGERON

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KURT VONNEGUT JR.’S
HARRISON BERGERON
Vonnegut plays with the idea of equality as a literal sentencing of oppression, and not what the general public’s vision of it is. The society created by Vonnegut in which George and Hazel live in is, under every and any possible function of the term, a dystopian society. Plagued by “handicaps” which include physical disturbances of the psyche, George finds it difficult to string his thoughts together – this would give him an advantage of the misfortunate others among his fellow societal members. Hazel has an “innate” handicap, being of average intelligence which inhibits her ability to create long trains of thought, much like George. These handicaps prevent them from even grieving for their son, an “abnormal” child, and his seizing to a prison. George and Hazel put themselves down, purposefully, so as to feel of equal quality and capability to all others. They use phrases such as “Good as anybody else,” “Who knows better than I do what normal is?” and other self-deprecating mantras. They are weighed down by bags of birdshot – the smallest pellet designed for a shotgun – so as to not have any physical or aesthetical advantages as much as the next person. Humanity has been conditioned to accept oppression as equality, to succumb to everyone else’s desires to “fit in”.

This is very much our society today. It is almost jarring to consider that this short story was written in the 60s, far before the invention of Bluetooth (which is very much like the “handicapper” which fits in George’s ear and releases sounds every other minute). The bags of birdshot that most citizens wear come at a price; if one removes a pellet from the bag, they receive two years in prison and are fined two thousand dollars. George compares this “cheating” to that of the competitive, savage nature of the “Dark Ages”, where one competed another, as we do today.

On comes the image of Harrison on the television. He is seven feet tall, and with the...
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