Handicap Each To His Ability Essay

1399 words - 6 pages

Kurt Vonnegut paints a picture of American society 120 years past 1961. Society has made a gradual change, but it is a drastic one nonetheless. After nearly two hundred amendments to the constitution, everyone is supposed to be equal in every way. “Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” (232 Vonnegut). In this landscape Vonnegut shows that people will never be completely equal, and trying to force equality through controlling individuals will only create a new class system.
In the sixties, as today, equality was a frequent topic of debate. The Civil Rights movement was rapidly gaining support, as was equal pay for women, protections of voting rights for minorities and a political shift embracing many teachings of Karl Marx (Decade of Change). There was an idea that if the playing field could just be leveled, if economic or social classes could be dissolved, then everyone would be happy and successful.
Kurt Vonnegut was a socialist, many would assume this dream falls in with his beliefs. However, “Too often, [Vonnegut] warns, people assume that equality means being the same. This is simply not realistic (Labin).” Vonnegut did not believe in equality, rather he favored equal opportunity. For this reason he shows us a possible future society in which, “Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” (232 Vonnegut). And this is why there are two distinct classes, average citizens with handicaps and above average citizens without handicaps. Additionally, there are two more less obvious classes, the below average citizens and the agents of the handicap general. None of these classes are truly equal.
George personifies the ideal above average citizen. He has his handicaps for superior strength and intellect, and they wear him down. However, he says, “I don’t mind it… I don’t even notice anymore. It’s just a part of me” (Vonnegut 233). “George… would rather endure the indignity of his ‘handicaps’ than suffer the consequence of tampering with them. He has adapted to the weights.” (Mowery). George is so used to being tortured with random noises and carrying extra weight, that he has accepted it as his role in society. Perhaps because of that, Harrison does not accept the limitations. “Now watch me become what I can become!” (Vonnegut 234). Harrison declares just prior to removing his handicaps.
Hazel, on the other hand is the epitome of an average citizen, who is of “perfectly average intelligence” and having no handicaps (232 Vonnegut). Being that these people are the average, they must be the largest single class. They excel at nothing, except doing what they are told, and ignorantly celebrate the failure of someone below average while condemning the success of those above average. “She believes that the T.V. announcer ought to get a raise ‘because he tried to the best he...

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