Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron: A Picture Of Inequality

662 words - 3 pages

Illustration of false equality

"The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal" (208). This in a nutshell is the premise of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story "Harrison Bergeron". Vonnegut’s title character Harrison Bergeron is a picture perfect human being: very tall, handsome and intelligent. Although our society would deem these desirable attributes, in this story’s 2081 AD setting they are highly objectionable. Kurt Vonnegut uses the character Harrison Bergeron to illustrate the danger of imposing total equality on a diversified population.

In Bergeron’s society uniformity is strictly imposed upon all citizens. Physical adjustments are levied to achieve this uniformity: tall people wear weights, disturbing sounds administered through earpieces deter intelligent thought, and hideous masks conceal beauty (208, 210-211). "Handicap Generals" continually clear citizens’ minds allowing them to think only in the present. These controls force the suppression of all individuality.

Because of his extraordinary innate attributes, fourteen-year-old Harrison contends with extravagant controls. His seven-foot height dictates he wear scrap metal weighing three hundred pounds. Large headphones, not earpieces, are required to subdue his intelligence. His spectacles cause him to be half-blind and give him "whanging headaches" (211). In order to offset his looks the "Handicap Generals" require that he wear a red rubber ball for his nose, shave his eyebrows and cap his white teeth in black. In Harrison, Vonnegut has obviously created an exceptional human being.
When Harrison decides to escape his bonds he is considered an enormous threat. The television station interrupts its normal broadcasts to warn the populous of him, describing him as "a genius and an athlete…extremely dangerous" (210). Breaking into the broadcast studio he appears "Clanking, clownish and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand" (211). Harrison realizes his power, proclaiming "Even as I stand here- crippled, hobbled, sickened-I am a greater...

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