Synthesis: Harrison Bergeron and Ashes for the Wind

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The short stories “Harrison Bergeron”, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and “Ashes for the Wind”, by Hernando Tellez, the atrocities of a dictatorship government are displayed as part of the central external conflict. Whether the story is conveyed via more serious, non-fiction-like means, such as the sad tale of a struggling family in Colombia, in “Ashes for the Wind”, or a more outlandish counterpart, in “Harrison Bergeron”, a corrupt government ultimately causes more problems to arise. Setting aside the obvious differences in the characters, plot, and setting, we see an essential element in the conflict of both stories – the protagonist defies the government, and must face the repercussions.

The two short stories possess vague similarities, as both authors put an emphasis on their negative views on totalitarianism. Both protagonists Juan Martinez and Harrison Bergeron defy the government in some way, and later are punished for their acts. In “Ashes for the Wind”, Juan is threatened to leave his home for voting against the current government at the previous election. Juan justifies himself with the fact that there was “no hard feelings” in voting against them, and “there always had to be a winner and a loser”, underestimating the government’s power. (Pg. 16) Instead, Juan would rather be killed that leave his household, showing doubt that the government will actually eradicate them. In “Harrison Bergeron”, Harrison also underestimates the power of the government, and appears publicly proclaiming that he was “the Emperor” and “a greater ruler than any man who ever lived”. (Pg. 179) He then proceeds to dance with no regard of the government’s powers whatsoever. In the end, Harrison suffers for his ignorance, when a government official, “Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General” intruded their dance and killed him and his partner “before they hit the floor” (Pg. 181). In a similar case, the government kills Juan for his stubbornness in not abiding to their requests....
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