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In "Harrison Bergeron" what tendencies in present day American Society is Vonnegut...

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stacelynn | Student, College Freshman

Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:44 PM via web

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In "Harrison Bergeron" what tendencies in present day American Society is Vonnegut satirizing?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 5, 2009 at 7:34 AM (Answer #1)

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Vonnegut is satirizing the tendencies in our society to put being politically correct above all else, and to cushion and protect anyone's feelings by trying to make it seem like everyone is really, really awesome, and no one is more awesome than anyone else.  And like in Vonnegut's story, more and more, the government is stepping in to take measures to keep people from failing-and thus feeling sad and inferior.  Our society is increasingly taking steps to regulate and control the things that make people unequal, fail, and feel inferior.

If you think about it for a bit, there are a lot of examples that come to mind of how this is played out in our society.  For example, think of sporting events or competitions.  Where there used to be just first place, now there are up to 8th places or more, and then all sorts of awards given out for "most improved", "best team spirit", etc.  We are afraid that someone who didn't win will be sad, so we give them some other reward to make them happy.  Vonnegut just takes this concept a step further by removing all those things in others that make us envious and sad.  Another example that comes to mind is the push in education to assimilate all of the classes into one-all honors classes to be mixed with the regular classes and the resource classes-because the resource kids expressed hurt feelings at being put into the "dumb" classes.  This is an attempt to cater to the feelings of the resource kids so that they don't feel ostracized and less smart than their other peers.  There is example after example of situations like this, where, in order to not offend people, or to make them feel bad about themselves and their situations, we actually limit the progress of other people to accomplish equality and perfect happiness.  Vonnegut has taken that concept to the extreme to make a point, which is that everyone isn't all the same, and a society that tries to force us to be so could potentially have some serious issues.

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