Professor Michael Mcanear
The Ridiculous Harrison Bergeron
The short story “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut, is a story about a dystopian, futuristic society in which every citizen is made “equal” to everyone else. In the story, the author seems to be telling a tale of the horrors of socialism and putting everyone on the same level, but the author is giving a humorous portrayal of socialist society to show that fears of socialism are ridiculous. In order to examine the themes in “Harrison Bergeron”, and to discern what the work reveals about the author's feelings or opinions on the subject understanding two parts of the short story is necessary: examples of ridiculous ideas in the story, and jokes in the story that make it more of a satire.
In “Harrison Bergeron,” amendments to the constitution of the citizens of the country in which this takes place have given the United States Handicapper General the ability to equalize all the citizens. This means that things like strong citizens are given weights to slow them down and beautiful citizens are given grotesque masks to hide their features. George Bergeron, Harrison's father, thinks at one point the reason of these things by saying, “so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in.” One example of these ridiculous handicaps would be George's own handicapper. His features that needs to be handicapped are his intelligence and strength. He is required to wear it by law and in the story it is described as, “tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.” At one point in the story, after a particularly intense noise George is described as “white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes.” Also, two of the eight ballerinas that were on the television show that...
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