Analysis of “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut
“Harrison Bergeron” was originally published in 1961, by Kurt Vonnegut. “Harrison Bergeron” was written as a form of satire, to mock individuals views that everybody should be equal in all aspects. ( Harrison Bergeron Satire)
This story takes place in 2081, in a society where everyone is supposedly equal through the use of handicaps that limit a person’s abilities. Nobody is smarter, stronger, or better in any way than anyone else. ( Vonnegut) George and Hazel’s son, Harrison, has been arrested due to his vast amount of special talents. George is intelligent but is limited by his handicap device, while Hazel is somewhat clueless. As his parents are watching ballerinas on the television, Harrison shows up on the news. The news warns everyone that he is a threat to society, and describe him as an athlete and genius. Harrison suddenly appears on the news and removed his handicap warns the crowd that there is a bomb under the stage. He suddenly chooses a ballerina to be his empress and then she removes her handicaps.
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This short story influences a lot of symbols and irony. The Handicap system is used and distributed by the government to ensure that all members of society are equal. Equality is usually interpreted as everyone having the same advantages, but not the same disadvantages. So then you have Harrison as an example who is the brightest and talented than any other person. Having his gifts makes him a prisoner. Having this total equality amongst one another is not something worth striving for. Thy in order to achieve equality physically and mentally the citizens were treated inhumanly by the government. Citizens have less self-worth within themselves to hide their talents fearing government punishment. Equality is achieved somewhat in a sense but at the expense of freedom and personal achievement.
Both situational and dramatic irony occurs within the story. Situational irony occurs when the author describes the lives of talented individuals in society. People would foresee Harrison, an unfathomably competent being, to be regarded in the open field. Or maybe, an indisputable contrast occurs in the novel. Harrison is seen as negative in the open eye and is executed with “scrap metal that hangs all over him” (Vonnegut). Another form of situational irony is the failure of the government in containing Harrison. With all the handicaps Harrison possesses, one would expect Harrison to no longer be able to function. Instead, Harrison is as strong as ever, made evident when manages to “[tear] the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper” (Vonnegut). The dramatic irony occurs when his parent watches Harrison on television. Hazel begins to cry and is unable to remember the cause, but the reader knows that the impetus behind her sorrow is the demise of her son.
There’s nothing to resolve here because, to George and Hazel, nothing actually happened. The status quo has returned. Okay, they’ll have to get their TV fixed, but aside from that, nothing’s changed. In fact, the story ends with a joke: Hazel repeating herself verbatim after George says “You can say that again” (93). But after what we’ve just seen, it hardly seems funny. (Shmoop Editorial Team)