Harrison Bergeron is a short story written by an American writer named Kurt Vonnegut Jr.. It is a satirical, dystopian, science fiction story based on a society whose desperate attempt to achieve perfection resulted in misfortunes. The story was initially published in October 1961 and was republished in 1968 by the Welcome to the Monkey House Collection.
The story takes place in the year 2081. In line with the amendments to the constitution, every American citizen is entirely equal. This means that no one is weaker than the other, no one is slower, no one is uglier, faster, or wiser— all are equal. Agents and generals monitor and ensure that the law of equality is enforced.
The story starts on one fateful day in April. A then fourteen-year-old Harrison Bergeron was taken away from his parents—George and Hazel. However, both of his parents were not fully aware of this tragedy. Hazel’s intelligence is average, resulting in a lack of awareness of her surroundings. People like Hazel possess such intelligence and cannot think or stretch their thinking time. On the other hand, despite having great intelligence, George could not comprehend well because the law requires people with above-average intelligence to wear a radio twenty-four hours a day. The government broadcasts a noise over these radios, which interrupts the thoughts of intelligent citizens like George.
When Hazel and George watch the ballerinas dance on TV, Hazel cries but can’t grasp the cause of her tears. After a while, She and George praise the dancers on TV. The ballerinas were masked to hide their good looks and were handicapped to make their moves appear average. After a few moments of watching, George’s thoughts were interrupted by a noise.
Two ballerinas also appear to get distracted, which means they possess above-average intelligence. There was a brief moment when George thought about his son, Harrison, as another noise distracted him from his thoughts. Before thinking deeper, Hazel urges him to lie down and rest his handicap bag, which weighs 47 pounds. This bag was placed and locked around George’s neck. Instead of lying down, he decided to get up and fetch some beer to help him relax a little bit. Hazel just smiled and agreed.
The TV soon flashes a piece of news that was read by a man who has a speech impairment. Hazel praised the man for trying and said that he deserved a raise. When the man gives up trying, he passes the bulletin to a ballerina. The lady then read it in her natural, lovely voice. Still, after being aware of what she had done, she immediately apologized and continued reading it using a low-almost-growling voice so that no one would get jealous. The bulletin says that Harrison has escaped from prison.
They flashed a picture of Harrison on the TV. He is wearing his handicapped that were made to suppress his strength, good looks, and intelligence. There was a rumbling noise on the TV. What followed was a video of Harrison removing his handicapped and claiming that he is the emperor and the greatest ruler in history and soon took off his handicapped to reveal his good looks. He ordered everyone to obey his commands, and he would make them royalty. Harrison then looked for a potential wife, saying he would make her the queen of his kingdom. A ballerina stepped up, removed her handicapped, and revealed her goddess-like beauty.
Harrison ordered two musicians to play a song, and he will make them royalties. They danced to the music, and as if defying gravity, they floated 30 meters up in the air where they kissed. Diana Moon Glampers, the head handicapped general, came to the studio with a shotgun and shot both Harrison and the ballerina. She also warned both of the musicians to wear their handicapped or she’ll shoot them too. The TV screen turned black, and afterwards, George came with his beer and asked Hazel why she was crying. Hazel, who couldn’t remember what happened, said she watched something sad. Unaware of all these happenings, George advised Hazel to avoid remembering anything painful. Up to the end, both are unaware of what happened to their son, Harrison.
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut is a tragic short story that bravely talks about different issues that we experience up to this moment. As they say, one cannot achieve perfection without flaws. This short story reminded us that overdoing something might make us forget the purpose of doing it all. Perfectionism is a disease that kills the hope for equality. Knowing and drawing clear boundaries between right and wrong should be the top priority to achieve equality.
In conclusion, Harrison is an excellent example of someone who has been silenced and suppressed but bravely stood up, showing his defiance and hunger for power. Equality in this story was taken into literal form. In reality, equality pertains to the rights and freedom of everyone, not to how we look or think because we are all made different from each other.
This story has raised awareness not only among many citizens but also among the leaders. Like Harrison, many of us are breaking free from society’s constraints of social norms. In the end, the story depicts how equally unequal their community is.
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