“Harrison Bergeron”

“Harrison Bergeron”, a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr focuses on the dangers of total equality. This relates to our current day society where many countries are starting to recognize the concept of equality, with America in the lead. The short Story takes place in the future (2081) where people are forced to lose their individuality, both physically and mentally. For the government, it is less of equal treatment, but more of gaining greater control by taking away everyone’s freedom. Total equality can be misunderstood because Vonnegut focuses on the idea of changing someone’s beauty, intelligence or strength to be the same as everyone else. However, the actual issues related to equality would be differences in race or religion.”They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” As stated in the first page. With all these handicaps, our society would become average. Without anyone having a creative mindset or having their own opinion, the world would never evolve. Natural looks or any talent should not be considered a threat to equality. Equality means fair treatment and it is necessary for people to express themselves because that is what makes us unique and differentiates us from one another. Furthermore, everyone being equal means everyone would be living the same life with the same amount of everything as the other people. This also results in no competition. Competition keeps our society moving forward and advancing. Without competition we wouldn’t discover new things to improve our lives. “If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?” The government has manipulated everybody’s minds into thinking that their handicaps are there to protect them. George referred to competition back then as the “dark ages”. The government must have brainwashed people into thinking the aftermath of a competition was all violence and nothing else. Also, on the third page of the short story, Vonnegut states that a ballerina had to apologize about her use of tone. “And then she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.”Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.” In my opinion, the government took the whole concept of “being equal” way too far. Not being able to express yourself creates a dull environment and it is like a chain reaction; if one person starts acting a particular way, so will everyone around them. You end up losing yourself, but it is wrong for the government to make everyone think that whatever they’re doing is for their own good. “Harrison Bergeron”, explores equality through physical appearances and thinking. Beautiful people must wear masks, smart people have to wear a headset that prevents them from thinking and not only does it balance everyone out, but it drags down those with greater capabilities with the weaker population. Fights begin through events such as racism, not someone’s talents. On the fourth page of the short story, Vonnegut writes, “and to offset his good looks, the h-g men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggletooth random.” George was extremely talented, therefore, he was told to wear a headset so he wouldn’t be able to think. Promoting equality in this type of way will just make everyone fear their talents because it is not being welcomed. Countries need equality in aspects such as race or religion because that is what will create peace amongst everyone. Vonnegut also tells us how everyone has so much potential in them, just like Harrison Bergeron, when he threw away his ball nose and ripped apart his handicaps. People are so much more to what they look or sound like and equality is being able to understand everyone’s situation and accept them. “Harrison Bergeron” teaches us a valuable lesson. We should never have to sacrifice our individuality for equality and equality should not be connected with issues such as beauty, intelligence and strength.