The Cold War was a tough period in American History. Families constantly living in fear over what might happen next. Kurt Vonnegut lived through out the time period of the Cold War. In that time he wrote many pieces of work, one of which is “Harrison Bergeron.” This short story takes place in America 2081, where everyone is “equal.” Vonnegut relates his work back to the Cold War and the threat of Communism by using the symbolism of handicaps and total government control.
“Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else,” everyone was equal (Vonnegut 1199). A handicap is something that hinders ones abilities in anyway. In this story many handicaps are used as an attempt to make everyone seem equal. For example: The beautiful ballerinas had to wear a hideous mask so they did not make others feel inferior. The prettier they were the uglier their masks were. Someone who was extremely intelligent, like George, had to wear an ear piece that would send extremely loud noises hindering his thinking process.
Harrison Bergeron was a beautiful person, so therefor he had to wear a mask. He also wore spectacles, a handicap harness, and headphones to make him blind, weak, and deaf. All of these are examples of complete government control. Vonnegut is using his experience during the cold war and the stories people thought were going to happen and making it seem like a reality. Vonnegut said, “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Vonnegut was thinking outside the box about how the government has complete control over everyone and everything. Using this technique he achieved a somewhat realist future, almost as if it were a dictatorship.
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