Equality in Harrison Bergeron

Topics: Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut, Government Pages: 2 (696 words) Published: June 5, 2013
Kurt Vonnegut’s short story "Harrison Bergeron" is set in the future (2081), when the government has supposedly made everyone “equal.” The people of this era are forced equal by technology. These people are denied individuality, and the governments have taken their freedom by enforcing laws. Vonnegut’s story is a satire because the society he depicts is not truly equal, but rather a totalitarian regime under the pretense of equality. I will examine how Vonnegut seems to be implying that in such a society, the government gains too much control and people gradually lose their individuality. In Vonnegut’s story, “everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal in every which way." So how does this differ from the equality we enjoy in our current society? Vonnegut goes on to explain that, in such a society, equality means that “nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” But how would this be possible if every human being is born differently? The government forces citizens to wear different levels of handicap devices according to their differing abilities. For example, a handicap radio is forced on anyone considered smart, a mask is forced on anyone considered beautiful, and heavy bags full of birdshots are forced on anyone considered strong. All these rules are enforced by the “211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution,” and the “unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.” However, this also implicates that equality is not actually achieved because the Handicapper General is evidently not restricted in the same manner. In fact, the Handicapper General, which seems to represent the government, controls the life of citizens. People like George might possess intelligent thoughts such as “maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped.” However, these thoughts might undermine the Handicapper General’s...
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