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Do you think there is a moral to the story, "Harrison Bergeron"? Why or why not?

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yenlio | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 2, 2009 at 10:13 AM via web

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Do you think there is a moral to the story, "Harrison Bergeron"? Why or why not?

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blacksheepunite | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted October 2, 2009 at 11:58 AM (Answer #1)

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What is more important, the rights of the individual or the rights of society? "Harrison Bergeron" is a dark story about the potential for the well meaning advocates of equality to destroy the creativity, strength and spirit of a people. Harrison is a gifted being in every sense of the word. In an ideal world, people like Harrison would be encouraged to grow and they would eventually lead the people. Instead, he is thwarted because he might make someone feel bad about their lack of ability. This is a satire--and satires always have a point. They point out the things that exist in our society and show them to be ridiculous. If there is a moral to this story, it is a warning not to take the idea of "equality" to an extreme. The reality is that we are NOT all created equal, never have been, never will be. There will always be differences, and we should value those differences instead of trying to squash them or articifically try to make them disappear.

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kimfuji | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted October 2, 2009 at 1:01 PM (Answer #2)

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In this Vonnegut story the moral is that it is wrong to try and make everyone equal. The theme of absolute equality has already appeared two years before "Harrison Bergeron" was published for the first time in Fantasy and Science-Fiction Magazine (1961). It was Vonnegut's novel The Sirens of Titan. However, in this work the theme is only a minor feature and is not really developed.The idea probably intrigued Kurt Vonnegut and forced him to develop it into a short story. Those who are familiar with Kurt Vonnegut's writing will certainly recognize some other themes of this story. For example the fear of de-humanization of human beings, being stuck in amber.


In "Harrison Bergeron", Kurt Vonnegut presented a scary view
of a future society, where everyone was equal. "Nobody was
smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else." (Vonnegut 1988:7). It was the job of the agents of the United States Handicapper General to keep it this way. Beautiful people had to wear ugly masks. People not heavy enough had to wear handicap bags full of lead. Clever people had to wear a radio in their ear tuned to the government transmitter, which sent out sharp noises to keep people from taking advantage of their brains. It was a world where competition was the greatest of sins.


I think that this view can be very easily related to modern
society. People are striving for equality of some kind--equality
of races, sexes etc. People try to eliminate racism, sexism,
lookism, ableism, ageism. Even the word speciesism starts to
appear in modern dictionaries of Politically Correct language.
The society in "Harrison Bergeron" succeeded in eliminating these prejudices--everybody got the same opportunity to do
anything--and the result was fatal.

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blacksheepunite | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted October 2, 2009 at 11:59 AM (Answer #3)

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What is more important, the rights of the individual or the rights of society? Harrison Bergeron is a dark story about the potential for the well meaning advocates of equality to destroy the creativity, strength and spirit of a people. Harrison is a gifted being in every sense of the word. In an ideal world, people like Harrison would be encouraged to grow and they would eventually lead the people. Instead, he is thwarted because he might make someone feel bad about their lack of ability. This is a satire--and satires always have a point. They point out the things that exist in our society and show them to be ridiculous. If there is a moral to this story, it is a warning not to take the idea of "equality" to an extreme. The reality is that we are NOT all created equal, never have been, never will be. There will always be differences, and we should value those differences instead of trying to squash them or articifically try to make them disappear.

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