Religious ideas have manipulated societies for centuries and existed as covert supremacy, dictating the actions executed by humanity. Religious discrimination is not a prehistoric phenomenon, with modern-day occurrences such as antisemitism and the holocaust, predominantly initiated by faith. Islamophobia is amplified issues emerging from terrorism and Islamic radicalism and extremism, as well as recent terrorist attacks. This has initiated stereotypical ideals and xenophobia, particularly in western nations. The commencement of Muslim bans/Travel bans has further augmented the religious bias. This societal issue is exhibited in this novella, by the reverse principle that humanity is identical, and nobody is superior or enhanced. By eliminating diversity, individuals, therefore, have no faith and god is prohibited, since they epitomize a supernatural being, hence it is regarded as unethical in this civilization. This may be branded as a nature of religious discrimination, by restricting access to belief. Kurt Vonnegut’s tale Harrison Bergeron incorporates communist ethics as well as totalitarianism. The presence of equality, enforced by the mandatory attire of handicaps which alters the intelligence, attractiveness, athleticism of citizens, ensuring the indistinguishability of society, correlated with characterizations of communism. ‘The year was 2081 and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.’.The sovereign leader encompasses virtues concurrent with those of dictators. The dystopian government strives to restrict and manipulate the thoughts of its citizens, exemplifies the totalitarian aspect of this tale
Kurt Vonnegut’s novella ‘Harrison Bergeron’ was written in a historic era of cataclysm, due to the ongoing civil rights movement and the aversion to communism. The context in which the tale was inscribed has a notable influence on the publication. Equality, Marxism and Christianity are themes scrutinized throughout the text and embedded in the story, which are predominantly in divergence to conventional American ideologies at the time. The fictional dystopia incorporates imagery of god to exhibit Harrison Bergeron as a sacrifice to save society from their detrimental bonds of egalitarianism, which can be paralleled to the concept that Jesus Christ died so our sins may be forgiven. These themes portrayed in the text are customary for the cold war era, primarily based on the rivalry between the USSR and Western Nations such as the United States. These issues expressed in the novel; are conventional of the time period it was written, and how the precedent ideals still exist today.
The tale commences with ‘The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.’ This excerpt encompasses the prominent themes of the novella; Egalitarianism and Fascism. The suppressive notion of a totalitarian government penetrates the composition. Figuratively Vonnegut depicts the enforcer of constitutional equality as the ‘United States Handicapper General’, the term handicap bestows the audience with an effective literary metaphor. The expression ‘Handicapper General’ evokes the concept of that social uniformity has become radical and excessive, that citizens in this dystopian nation are compelled to be ‘Handicapped’, if they possess distinctive and exceptional physical and intellectual attributes. The novelist has inverted the veracity of how contemporary society allocates exclusive compensations to handicapped/disabled individuals. The perception of egalitarianism morphs into a futuristic nightmare scenario that has vast implications for society. Hence, this extract reinforces Vonnegut’s secondary theme of totalitarianism. The dystopian government strives to vehemently restrict the thoughts of its citizens; therefore, wise individuals are prohibited to formulate opinions or think critically. These measures defend and uphold the sovereignty and dominance of the government, via trepidation around expressing aversions regarding the communist state. Manipulation of the media is customary in authoritative nations and is vital for total domination. Moreover, the author is indirectly implying that the influence of the media sways the public and reality. Harrison Bergeron is illustrated as a criminal by authorities, however, he only desired to be liberated from torment. The solitary ‘Crime’ he committed was that he was physically and intellectually diverse to the remainder of society. Alternatively, the news bulletin concerning Harrison Bergeron exposes how the mass media in modern society circulates misinformation and propaganda. The futuristic tale comprises aspects and themes of present issues regarding dictatorship and freedom of speech. Anticommunist ideals are still exceedingly relevant in modern-day society, verifying that the novelist was accurate in his predictions of the future.
Novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction feature encompasses abundant themes of religion and faith. Notions of god are utilized throughout the entire composition, predominantly involving the ideal that the protagonist must exist as a martyr, to save humanity from their bonds of equality, equivalent to Christian beliefs. Vonnegut litters the composition with references to ‘our heavenly father’. The term god is employed repetitively to reinforce the Christ imagery, likewise, alludes to individuals deeming Harrison as a savior. The author differentiates the evolution from an image of the protagonist upon the television by to the legitimate entity by expressing ‘a living breathing Harrison’. ‘Ballerinas, technicians, musicians and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die’. The impression of ‘cowering’ visualizes worshiping in fear. Furthermore, Vonnegut illustrates Harrison as a marvelous creature, ‘awed Thor, the god of thunder’. ‘Not only abandon the laws of the land, gravity, and motion but a god ?’The deeds of the male protagonist are misperceiving and nonsensical unless he is destined to be slain.
The novelist labels Harrison as a rational intellect, that not even the regime could adequately handicap. If the protagonist merely aspired to conquest the government, logically gone directly to the administration headquarters. However, Harrison elected to intentionally proceed to go to a television studio, where he could expose a glimpse of existence minus handicaps. Recognizing that the government would subsequently pursue and exterminate him. The sacrifice is another justification of the Christ-like depiction throughout this volume. Recently religion has become a center-stage issue, instigating immense commotion and conflict, and this aspect of the science fiction story relates to contemporary complications.
This science fiction novel explores the imminent future and what that may possess. Kurt Vonnegut further demonstrates that the future is still indistinct and vague, however, the morals and ethics denoted in this short story is very relevant to modern society. This is upsetting as anything may transpire, and humanity may momentarily find itself dealing with an immense issue, comparable to something exhibited in the text. Totalitarian states and religious discrimination is an enemy of the United States, and what this nation has and what we have fought against for centuries, is this is our future?
- Zoe Gainer New York Times Book Review Analyst ($14.99). To order a copy go to nytimesbuy.org/books