As generations progress, we see the change in our society. When reading the short story Harrison Bergeron we see the theme equality play out significantly.
The idea of equality in America is based primarily on many different characteristics. Many of them which are mentioned in this short story. The author Kurt Vonnegut expands further on the topic equality. Equality has been achieved by reducing each citizen to the lowest common trait. This means that each individual who possesses some trait that makes him or her better than others—intelligence, looks, athletic ability—must wear a handicap that brings him or her down to a lowest common ability. Personalized handicaps were made for those who excel at a particular quality.
For example, those who are better looking than others must mask their beauty with hideous disguises. Another example is Harrison Bergeron’s father who has great intelligence. He must listen to earsplitting noises that impede his ability to think. These are some of the many ways equality is demonstrated in this story. “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. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.” (Vonnegut, 195) America portrays equality as everyone is equal regardless of their differences. This is just society’s picture of the “ideal” human being. Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron” examines an innovative world in which all people have been concluded equally. Vonnegut amusingly suggests that in order for everyone to be equal, those who exceed the limit must be brought down to normal. This results in the loss of exceptional talent, intelligence, and beauty.
In a society of redundant equality, Harrison Bergeron is the only one fighting for his rights and is the only one trying his best to overthrow the government. Harrison is the only character in the story that represents uniqueness through his characteristics. Harrison is described as “a genius, an athlete,…and should be regarded as dangerous….Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones and spectacles with thick wavy lenses….Scrap metal is hung all over him….
he wears at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keeps his eyebrows shaved off, and covers his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random” (Vonnegut 236). People notice his greatness just by looking at his excessive handicaps. In this sense, Harrison represents the uniqueness of the ideal individual.
In conclusion, the reader can see that Harrison was beyond great but society was bringing him down to become what they expect of him. Kurt Vonnegut represents the extremes of both equality and inequality in society. Both extremes have disadvantages because while one takes away individuality and distinctiveness, the other takes away equality and fairness. This means that although equality comes with being treated the same and with justice, you’ll lose that sense of individuality. This short story was mainly a warning to society of how much excessive equality can cause downfall.
In a world full of equality, no human should be looked down upon as anything more or less than what they were. There is no good reason to shame others about their beauty, intelligence, talents, and whatnot. For example, Harrison represents the potential of society but that potential gets ruined when he gets shot. His killer, Diana Moon Glampers who is a Handicapper General, thinks she’s doing a great job of getting people to support equality. It ruined many lives including that of Harrison Bergeron himself. Moreover, this short story demonstrates a significant amount of how people get treated unfairly. In conclusion, the idea of equality in the short story “Harrison Bergeron” is based primarily on many different characteristics.
The author of this story, Kurt Vonnegut, explains different ways that equality is practiced. Many of them are considered injustices like meddling with someone’s intelligence. Equality is practiced in a way that people are reduced to the lowest common trait so everyone can be the same. All in all, author Kurt Vonnegut demonstrated equality and the idea of it in a good manner.