Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Theme Absolute Equality Suppresses Individuality The hypocrisy of a utopian society and the danger of total equality. Plot Outline 2081; 211, 212, and 213 Amendments have ensured that every American is finally equal due to the work of the Handicapper General. While watching a ballet performance on TV, the performance is interrupted by the arrival of Harrison Bergeron. Harrison had been taken from his home at the age of 14, but had just escaped from prison. He declares himself the emperor, finds a mate in a beautiful, brave ballerina and they begin to dance. However, the Handicapper General shoots them down and the TV screen goes blank. Hazel vaguely remembers what just occurred but feels sad; George tells her to forget and be happy. Important Quotes “It’s all kind, of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel. “Forget sad things,” said George. “I always do,” said Hazel. The society has been brainwashed and lost its individual thought. Rather than face emotions, they suppress and ignore them. Hazel can’t even remember the cruel death of her only child. “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…” Characterization - - Harrison Bergeron: Represents individualism and rebellion Confident, arrogant, defiant, charismatic, unyielding “I am the Emperor!” “Even as I stand here-” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened- I am the greatest ruler than any man who ever lived!” “…a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder”. However, he is murdered in the end; symbolic of hope and individualism dying out. Symbolism The handicaps - Represent the barrier from individuality which make free thought or action impossible. They are the limitations imposed on by society, which constrict the people to being one certain way. Adding handicaps helps enforce the homogeny in society. By making handicaps customary, society becomes accustomed, or scared into by consequences, into making no effort to display their individuality. o HG men - Are representative of control and repression, they are the enforcers of equality. These men are the ones who supervise that the laws for maintaining absolute equality are adhered to, and decide what and how many handicaps are to be placed upon a person in order for that to happen. They make sure that individuality is suppressed at any cost. o Symbolism (continued) Harrison -He is symbolic of defiance, individuality, and strength. Although he starts up chained up and burdened with multiple handicaps, he fights to break free from them, symbolizing the eventual breakthrough of individuality. Absolute equality is not part of human nature, and so if repressed is suffocating. Imagery “wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses” “red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random” “Harrison looks like a walking junkyard.” Harrison is forced to wear heavy amounts of handicaps in order to fit into the “equal mold” of the rest of society. He is extremely strong, intelligent, and attractive but in society’s strive toward absolute equality, he is unable to express his attributes and freely display his individuality. Imagery (continued) “sound of a riveting gun in his head “she must have been extraordinarily beautiful because the mask she wore was hideous” If people have any outstanding attribute, whether physical or mental, the H-G men make sure to impede their display of them. By periodically emitting beeping noises from George’s earpiece, they are able to prevent the formation of any individual thought and by making the ballerina wear a hideous mask, they are able to repress her resplendent and unique beauty. In society’s efforts to achieve complete equality, they eliminate the expression of individuality. Irony The entire idea of “Harrison Bergeron” is filled with irony. The first ironic thing is that the society discourages favorable attributes and encourages mediocrity. This idea is completely ludicrous in terms of the real world and science, in which the processes of evolution and natural selection have taught us that favorable traits will persevere through generations while unfavorable attributes will disappear in a species because of the dying off of the carriers of the unfavorable traits. Also ironic is the fact that the ones that are in charge of controlling who is handicapped in the society are the ones that do not wear handicaps themselves as they are the ones who are average.