Harrison Bergeron Essay

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Harrison Bergeron “Harrison Bergeron” is a science fiction short story written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1961. Mr. Vonnegut constructs a 2081 America that evolves into a society with a focus on complete equality. The government creates a position called the United States Handicapper General who assigns a handicap to each person decided to have a physical, intellectual, or aesthetic advantage. The main character, Harrison Bergeron, is a 14-year old boy who is saddled with a tremendous pair of loud sound emitting ear phones to offset his genius, hanging scrap metal to neutralize his strength, and a clown nose to diminish his good looks. Penalties like these ultimately lead to a deteriorating quality of life for all. Performances in dancing, music, and news reporting are adversely affected. Those people with the fewest imposed handicaps share the pain equally in this well-monitored society. Through “Harrison Bergeron”, Mr. Vonnegut offers an interpretation of his vision of a growing American socialist movement which creates an oppressive environment and promotes mediocrity. The handicap apparatus that some people carry is a metaphor for the disproportionate tax code, welfare, or set-aside programs found in the U.S. today. Kurt Vonnegut views these programs as the infrastructure of a socialist system. The Handicapper General penalizes people because of a perceived advantage. The narrator describes the handicap assigned to Harrison’s father: “While his intelligence was way above normal, George had a little mental handicap radio in his ear that will send out a sharp noise so that people like him do not take unfair advantage of their brains” (216). Handicapping George might be similar to a successful businessman in 2011 being charged a higher tax rate so as not to take unfair advantage of his growing capital reserves. The Handicapper General’s system provides that

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