Harrison Bergeron, a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, displays many themes throughout the story. A main theme throughout the story is how a person in power feels threatened by those they control and how total equality is forced in society. While reading, the setting takes place in the United States of America in 2081 where the 211th, 212th, 213th amendment states that people with above average abilities have to wear handicaps so others can feel equal to them. Those who are more attractive, intelligent, and athletic are affected most by these amendments.”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”. Once a person starts reading, they soon realize that Vonnegut laced that these are a form of satire and irony. This is shown when there are over a hundred Amendments that make society ideal. “Later in the story, George and Hazel are sitting in the living room when George’s handicaps cause him pain and are such an inconvenience. Hazel recommends to George that he should break the law and remove the handicaps while at home since he isn’t in competition with anyone. In response, George claims that if he were to break the law others would do the same and they would be in the Dark Ages’ again. These examples show readers of how society isn’t perfect in anyway. Total equality (when it comes to looks, intelligence, and athletic build0), doesn’t make a perfect society. Competition is a key factor for having a successful economy. In every society there are people who succeed and those who don’t.
Not only that but, the society in the story correlates to communistic society. The main concept of communism is to make sure those in the community have an equal amount of rights and privileges as those around them. ‘Harrison Bergeron’ society structure is different from a communist structure, but they both are similar in many ways. In Harrison Bergeron, the government was given a lot of power, and everyone was forced to be equal. Communism is also very different from the US government and acts in various ways. For instance, Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, is the one in charge of making sure those above averaged are handicapped and that they follow the laws of this society. Those who go against the law will be hunted down and will be shot and killed as a consequence of rebelling. This is shown in the story when the son of Hazel and George Bergeron, Harrison Bergeron, is put in prison because he possesses all the complex traits a person can have, disable his handicaps, and escapes from his cell. Diana then shoots Harrison and kills him on live television. People part of a communist society are meant to be equal towards each other while, people in Kurt Vonnegut society are forced to be equally terrible at everything. Harrison Bergeron was written in 1961 where everyone was afraid of the United states of becoming communist as well. People who rebel and disobey the law in a communist country can face extreme punishment, be jailed, and even be killed just like Harrison was. This also could be an example of how a person in power can be corrupt and how if the person feels threatened by those they rule then they do everything in their power to prevent a person from overpowering them.
Finally, Kurt Vonnegut shows a sense of dystopia throughout the story and even relates to Ray Bradbury’s “ Fahrenheit 451” when it comes to passing laws that restrict their citizens. An “example of similarity between the two stories would be how the government realized the desire for equality that people have and use that to keep society at below average intelligence levels along with both being in the future.” In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag, the protagonist, is a firefighter who burns books instead of putting out fires. This limits the people of knowledge just like those in Harrison Bergeron. Not to mention, that in Fahrenheit 451, a girl named Clarisse who was Montag’s neighbor was killed for reading a book essentially having her killed just like Harrison was killed for taking off his handicaps. These stories both show the strict and extreme laws that were made by someone in power to keep those below them at bay.
Furthermore, Kurt Vonnegut ,“Harrison Bergeron”, uses a form of satire throughout the story to show that the futuristic America wants to be equal but, in reality and irony of the situation is that those being handicapped and controlled are not really equal to those around them.
- https://www.sparknotes.com/short-stories/harrison-bergeron/section1/ (*)
- https://www.cram.com/essay/Fahrenheit-451-By-Bradbury-And-Vonnegut/P36ZVPLGR445cybereng/harrison.html (*)
- https://www.essaybot.com/sample/essays/detail?id=37754 (*)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Theme of Harrison Bergeron?
The theme of Harrison Bergeron is the danger of total equality and the importance of individualism. The story suggests that total equality is impossible, and that attempting to achieve it can lead to oppressive control, conformity, and the stifling of individual creativity and potential.