Harrison Bergeron Essay, Research Paper
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.?s Too Equal Society
The society that the story "Harrison Bergeron" portrays, is one with no passion, no spirit, merely one with no individuality. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. does a great job in satirizing the American political system. Stanley Schatt notices this in his biography of Vonnegut, where he states that Vonnegut writes "political fables that satirize the American political and this country?s relationship with both China and the Soviet Union"(133). The people of this society take the notion equality to a level that could not even be feasible in any person?s imagination. In an attempt to make people equal, handicaps are distributed among people. These handicaps range from little mental handicap radios in more intellectual people’s heads to metal or other heavy foreign objects to slow the stronger people. With these handicaps the people are unable to do things that might be simple without the handicaps. This attempt at equality that comes about, makes America a dictatorship rather than a democracy. It also lowers the quality of living in America along with the competition level that America has with the rest of the world. Besides, there is no possible way to make everyone equal in everyday life. Without individuality, there would not be any free thinkers and no dreams to accomplish anything special. Vonnegut uses satire to mock the American political system.
The idea of the American political system being compared to that of the China?s and Soviet Union?s is meaning how the system is much like that of a dictatorship. This is true since there is a head person, this person being the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers. Diana Glampers is the one to decide what the standard is for a person to be handicapped in any way. The only thing though, is that she must have at least a clear thought process with no interruptions of painful, loud sounds in her head. If this country is America, then how could she or the group that may be supporting her not have handicaps also? This thought contradicts the thought of democracy in America. Even the thought of how this individual was able to come to be the "Handicapper General" in America, is assuming that there was some type of take over or manipulation of the people in America. Equality of everyone with handicaps with a few without handicaps is more of a dictatorship than a democracy.
In "Harrison Bergeron" the political system has taken the "Declaration of Independence" and attempted to intertwine it with the Constitution. This however is not possible, since the "Declaration of Independence" was written in ridding the new Americans of the hold that the English had on them. The Constitution was written to have laws and order in the country. The "Declaration of Independence" speaks of "All men are created equal…", this is saying that in the eyes of the law everyone is created equal. The people in this society have taken it to the extreme, having it mean that everyone is equal in all aspects of life to accompany equality in the law. The Constitution started with amendments that gave every citizen certain rights that could not be taken from him or her. This society took those amendments and added to them to make everyone equal in all areas of life. This society shows that writings of a country that were written at different times in history for different purposes are not meant to be intertwined.
The people have to be applauded for trying this hard to make everyone equal in every aspect in life, but they actually failed at doing it. Even with two hundred and thirteen amendments to the Constitution, they failed. The people forgot a few things that make people very different and not equal. They forgot color, sex, and who is going to make sure things get taken care of to their list of things to make people equal. Color has been proven since the earliest of times to make someone seem unequal. Slaves, for example, were primarily black people. Since the slaves were black, when slavery was abolished the freed black people had a very long, rough time before they started getting the least bit of respect. The sex of a person still today may effect how that person is thought about and treated. Women were always expected to sit at home, cook, clean, and raise the children, while men were thought to do the more physical work around the house and support the family by earning a living. Women are just now making into the work place and some women now are even running major companies and corporations. Women are even competing on the professional level in sports now, a feat that no one would have ever thought would happen. To add to the point that times have changed, men are raising kids, cleaning house, and cooking in today?s world. In every country, rules are required in order to maintain order. With these handicaps to make everyone equal, it would be impossible for someone with a mental handicap to maintain order in the country. Someone or a group of people would be required to be smart but not have a mental handicap so they could make important decisions. Then there has to be a group of people to enforce the law of the handicaps and the other laws that are actually in today?s society. These people would not be able to have either mental or physical handicaps. Even when the people have handicaps on them, that allows the handicapped to be marked. By being marked, that is that other people are able to tell if a person is smarter than the average, stronger than the average, or better looking than the average. Vonnegut gives an example of how people are marked in this type of society when he writes "And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancer, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two hundred-pound men"(1334). There is just no way to make everyone equal in all aspects of life.
Where would we be today if we did not have a thought process for more than a few minutes? Where would we be if we forgot something like what we were saying right before the interruption every single time we were interrupted? We would not have made it to the moon, probably would not have even tried to get to the moon. Without a complete thought process there would not be anybody to stopping people from committing crimes. With the physical handicaps there would not be any competition between people in athletic events. People would not try to get into shape, which probably would lead to an early death for many individuals. The only exercise that people would get is if they did have the handicap on their strength. This would be due to the fact that after time they would merely get used to the extra weight on them. After they were used to the extra weight on them, the Handicapper General would have to order more weight added to them. In the end without competition between individuals life as we know it would decline and people would not live as long as they do today.
Vonnegut makes a great point of where our society is going if people do not just realize that there are bias in the world. All that the people in the world can do now is just try harder to get ahead. People will have to make it where the race for a job is not as close so there is no chance of a bias opinion coming into play of who gets the job or wins the job. The movie PCU portrays a college campus that depicts how this society most likely came about. In the movie, people argue over every little thing from race to the earth to partying. The students had to come up with ways in order to do things without offending so many different groups of people. The people in America are going to have to understand that they are stuck on this planet with all kinds of people and there is nothing they can do about it except live with it. When people will start to understand the many differences between everybody then the United States and the world will be a better place. If a country or worse the world became like this there would be no advancement, no excitement, honestly no point in living anymore. By satirizing a country like this, Vonnegut shows us that this is not where we want to be.
Schatt, Stanley. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1976.
Vonnegut Jr., Kurt. "Harrison Bergeron". The Short Story and Its Writers: An Intro to Short Fiction, Fifth Edition. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1999. 1332-1335.