Harrison Bergeron Theme | Teen Ink

Harrison Bergeron Theme

December 15, 2007
By Anonymous

In “Harrison Bergeron”, Kurt Vonnegut explores the theme of forced equality in American society in the not so distant future. Vonnegut creates a world in which all living people are equal in all ways. He focuses on creating equality by altering beauty, strength, and intelligence as opposed to dealing with race, religion, and sex, the true issues of equality in society. He writes this story to teach the lesson that all people are not equal, but rather, they all have strengths and weaknesses making each uniquely individual.
Vonnegut forces equality on America in the areas of beauty, strength, and intelligence. He creates a world in which beautiful people wear masks to cover their faces and strong individuals carry weights to make them equal to the weaker population. For the intelligent men and women, headsets that blast random noises are worn to interfere with intellectual thoughts. These handicaps are to be worn at all times and are enforced by law to equalize all human beings. Vonnegut makes Harrison very handsome, strong, and intelligent. He has to wear an abnormally large headset, huge weights, large glasses, and a red rubber nose just to offset his features. Vonnegut writes, “The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever borne heavier handicaps,” (128). If ever a handicap law is broken, the Handicapper General, who wears no handicaps and carries a shotgun, hunts down the guilty party and kills him. This corrupt equality by Vonnegut is created on an attribute basis and can only be carried out through force.
Vonnegut’s form of forced equality will be questioned by the handicapped many times and will eventually fail. He uses Harrison in the story to show that people will protest and work against the handicaps until the handicap system is abolished. He writes, “Harrison tore the straps off his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support fire thousand pounds,” (129). With the handicaps that prevent anyone from being equal, no competition is allowed. Without competition, there can be no improvement in any area of life. All progress that requires thought will be stopped, and all critical thinking will end. The economy will eventually crash because of lack of improvement. Vonnegut’s form of equality will never work in any way, because it demoralizes the human race and stops all creativity.
Equality in “Harrison Bergeron” is morally wrong. It ignores the teachings of God. God teaches us in the bible to be happy with what He has given us. He tells us to use what He has blessed us with to help others. Mr. Bergeron is blessed with intelligence, and the Handicapper General forces him to wear a headset to keep him from using his intelligence to overcome others that are not as smart as him. The handicaps are holding back the potential that God has given to a man or woman. Vonnegut shows how Harrison’s potential is held back when he writes, “He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder,” (129). Harrison Bergeron has to wear extremely heavy weights, large glasses, and an earpiece because he is smart, strong, and he has good eyesight. The gifts God gives to Harrison are taken away from him by Vonnegut. These all contradict the word of God, and, therefore are morally wrong.
America and other countries need equality in many aspects of life such as race, religion and sex in order to live in peace and harmony. Past historical events like slavery, genocide, and religious fighting occur when equality is out of balance. It is when one group of people believes that they are higher and better than another group when violence begins. This corruption is amplified onto different levels like classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organized attack, polarization, preparation, extermination, and denial. Equality is needed in countries in aspects of race, religion, and sex in order for the country to thrive and live in peace.
One of the most important themes in “Harrison Bergeron” is that equality in any country is only helpful in areas like race, religion, and sex, but not for individual attributes like beauty, intelligence, and strength. If one alters the plan of God and tries to change the world to be completely equal, then the world will fall apart. Kurt Vonnegut writes this story to help us realize that equality is meant to make no man or woman better than another man or woman. The major theme in “Harrison Bergeron” is that equality is for rights and not for attributes like beauty, strength, and intelligence.

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This article has 3 comments.

Love Lit. said...
on Apr. 26 2011 at 10:08 pm
What you wrote is not the theme. It summarizes the story and the plot. You said that people will protest against the forced equality until it is abolished. But what happens in the end of the story? The equality is not abolished in as soon as you rise above the government they shoot you down (literally and metaphorically). Also not many people do question and protest the forced equality in the end, what happens is the government keeps them from having a concentrated thought and keeps them dumb, and they don’t even remember what happened.

litfreak said...
on Feb. 22 2010 at 1:03 am
You used the premise that "These all contradict the word of God, and, therefore are m orally wrong." While I agree with what the government is doing in this story is wrong, I dont like the reasoning you give. Do you believe that those who have other faiths and religious beieves are "Morally wrong" ? I would understand you believing that what they believe in is wrong but are they themselves "morally wrong" Because since they dont believe in "God"they are contradicting the "word of God" by not believing in him. I think its a far stretch to say that other religions are morally wrong and because of this, it kind of takes away from your arguement,

mikyjay said...
on Nov. 9 2009 at 8:40 pm
this is so true gods didnt make us to be exactly the same he made us all unique