The Analysis of Harrison Burgeron
Taking a step forward into the future; the year is 2081, and everyone is legally obligated to be equal and have true equality. When reading into the mind baby of Kurt Vonnegut titled, “Harrison Burgeron,” it puts the reader in a pseudo-utopian, more dystopian United States of America in the year of 2081. The government has passed the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments, and this entitles equality for everyone, no one was smarter, stronger, or better looking than anyone. While it may sound impossible, it was realized by as the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General (Vonnegut 1.1) with the constant enforcement of equality, the story exposes the ideology of wanting perfect equality. As the story goes on, you see the constant battle of what is natural and what is forced. Kurt Vonnegut illustrates two main themes in “Harrison Burgeron”, that true equality is only feasible when you’re striped of your humanity and the power of how the media can manipulate how we think and what we see.
For years, the need for equality has been fought for since the beginning of time, and in Harrison Burgeron, we find that the United States has taken the initiative and forced their hand to make sure that true equality in place so that everyone is the same, but at what cost? We are introduced in this story to the Burgeron Family, George and Hazel Bergeron on sitting together watching the ballet on their television. As that may seem very ordinary, Vonnegut gives the reader insight into what makes this seemingly regular couple different. “Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence…and George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter…the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.” (Vonnegut 1.3) When reading that we are given a firsthand look as to what steps the government had taken to assure that no one has an upper hand one anyone, but is that really fair? As the text continues, the we understand that Harrison, their son was taken away from them at the age of 14 years old (Vonnegut 1.2) and while watching the ballet, we finally introduced to who Harrison Burgeron is. A towering, very strong, and gifted individual, had escaped from his prison and declared himself emperor on television. He is described to have worn a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. “The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches” as well as “scrap metal was hung all over him…Harrison carried three hundred pounds.” (Vonnegut 3.7) These extreme measures to diminish what’s natural is basically removing their humanity, the text gives the reader a look at how low quality of life it must be for someone who has the advantage over another human. It seems that the government didn’t have the intent of giving the people “equality,” but wanted to repress those of the likes of Harrison Burgeron, the government had their own intentions and how much power they wanted to provide the people so much so that it’s even evident through what the people consume through media.
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Kurt Vonnegut also give the readers something to ask oneself, in which how much power and the influence the media has on our everyday lives. One of the first scene setters given in the text is when we are told that George and Hazel are sitting in front of the television, Hazel crying, but forgetting exactly why she had been crying in the first place. They’re watching the ballet and when suddenly they have to watch an announcement by the government about their sons escape from prison. After an awe-inspiring dance number with Harrison and a dancer, it all ends abruptly when Vonnegut writes It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.” (Vonnegut 5.2) Upon that section of the paper, the reader will realize the message sent to the people who were viewing the spectacle that the government at the end of the day and no matter what you do, they’ll always have the upper hand. Media can be used to empower, but its more evident that it’s anti-uprising propaganda. Once can make the inference that this could be a continuous loop that is broadcasted over and over again the those viewing, the story begins with tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about. (Vonnegut 1.4) and ending with George walking into the living room after leaving for a beer, to his wife crying about something sad happening on the TV, but with her perfectly average intelligence, she can’t possibly be able to process the events that take place on the TV, which gives the reader the sense that this is a daily broadcasted event to propagate this government totalitarianism to this dystopian America.
When what makes us all different is taken away from us, it strips us of the very essence of what It means to be human. All humans can never truly be “equal” Through Harrison Burgeron it was evident that even in this “equal” society where the intention was to make everyone equal, made out to be extremely counterproductive. The story of “Harrison Bergeron” will make whoever reads it think about equality and how attempting to make it the main focus would lead to the demise of the people, but to also realize how what makes us different is what makes us human. When these differences are manipulated by the media, and expressed to exploit the people, it can make and call for one to see that living in a timeline such as the one in Harrison Burgeron, would be, as Hazel would put it, to be quite the doozy.