A Dystopian Masterpiece In his short story, “Harrison Bergeron”, author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. tells about a society, or America, in the future being ruled by a totalitarian government, whose number one law, is equality. Everyone is treated equally by law; no one is smarter, faster, stronger or more beautiful than another. The people of the society are forced to conform to handicaps by wearing weights around their neck or masks to hide a beautiful face. Vonnegut shows how far people are willing to go for equality and putting people in degrading situations just to make them equal.
Is someone truly equal in a dystopian society, where being above average is not normal and being almost dumb is almost completely normal? In order to demonstrate Harrison Bergeron is living under dystopian society, the reader must examine a society were there are too many laws, in which is the public is being regulated by the state, everyone being forced to conform. One of the qualities of a dystopian society is being regulated by the state; every move made by the public is being watched, making sure that no one is above equality.
Equality is taken very seriously, so serious that it became “the 211th, 212th and the 213th amendment to the Constitution” (1). This shows that at least a few centuries ago when the constitution was written there were just enough amendments but now in 2081 there is more then two hundred. So many amendments, each time a new amendment is added little of equality is taken away. Anyone who was of above average intelligence, beauty, or strength was required to wear a handicap, weights around their neck or an earpiece tuned to the government.
Tampering with these weights would automatically give “two years in prison and a two thousand dollar fine” (2). These weights weighed over forty-five pounds, who would not want to rid that, but is that the price they must pay for equality. Vonnegut character Harrison Bergeron who was above average intelligence, physical strength and beauty was required to wear a handicap, by the state. Harrison wore scrap metal around his neck and “rubber nose” to hide his beauty. People weren’t allowed to do anything without the government being involved, not even a train of thought.
They had to bare those heavy weights, all day for their rest of their lives. Vonnegut short story takes equality a step up from the stairs of equality, putting the public in dehumanized and degrading situation. Hazel being of average intelligence was considered normal although she “couldn’t think about anything but in short bursts” (1) which goes to show she is to dumb to pose a threat to the handicap generals. While Harrison on the other hand, was above average, had to wear heavy handicaps such as “tremendous pair of head phones and spectacles with thick lenses” (3 Vonnegut).
This was all to weigh him down because he posed a threat with his above average intelligence and physical strength. The state was so afraid of people like him they made him wear those handicaps, now is that really fair. Someone is slightly larger slightly beautiful they have to hide it. Where does that put people, making them dumber rather then helping them, or keeping someone caged up to the point he will rebel. Then there’s the ballerina how had to wear a “hideous mask” (1 Vonnegut) to hide her above average beauty, had to apologize for her voice.
When she spoke it was with “a very unfair voice for a woman” (3). If your voice is lovely or soothing you cannot use it, it is unfair and possibly punishable by law. Equality is taken a bit too extreme when someone has to apologize for tone of voice. In a utopian society there are not many laws, in “Harrison Bergeron”, there are too many laws with all those amendments. George Bergeron being above average intelligence is “required by law to wear it at all times” (1) to wear an ear piece, it is tuned to the government so they’d and goes off “every twenty seconds” (1) forbidding him to have a train of thought.
George cant even remember his son or think about something without a noise going off in his ear. How can someone have a proper conversation with a noise going off in the ear every twenty seconds? This shows a dystopian quality, independent thought being limited or restricted. In this society breaking the law can even cause death. By the time Harrison removed his weights and escaped and took over a television broad cast to dance with a ballerina, at that point “Diana Glump Handicapper General came in to the studio with a double barrel gun and shot twice”(3).
They dies instantly, a world with no jurisdiction or chances, the ballerina did not even have a say in it, it could have been handled differently. Instead, the situation is handled with violence, yet another dystopian quality. A dystopian society has laws, and is ruled by the government, Harrison Bergeron shows this, in no way is it utopian. This goes on to show that Harrison Bergeron is indeed a dystopian society. Its is controlled by a totalitarian government, and their behaviors are regulated by the state. Vonnegut wanted to show American in the future as a dystopia society, showing that America will go overboard for equality.
Also by making people lead a dehumanized live by being handicapped forever. This short story contains all the qualities of a dystopian society, not being able to think or under watch of the state, but everyone is used to it. Vonnegut showed that people can let things get out of hand and be taken to extreme levels. One by one, tweak this hear tweak that there, when will it stop.