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What is the meaning or theme of the story "Harrison Bergeron" and how are the...

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jmh171105 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 10, 2008 at 6:03 AM via web

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What is the meaning or theme of the story "Harrison Bergeron" and how are the characters relevant to that meaning?

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 10, 2008 at 6:47 AM (Answer #1)

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I assume by meaning that you want the main theme of the story. I would say that Vonnegut, the author, is showing us what happens in a society where competition is no longer allowed because the government has decided what is "normal" and what isn't. Anyone who is considered to be above normal, like Harrison and his father, is handicapped. No one who is less than normal should ever feel bad about him/herself. Society has become one of mediocrity, keeping everyone as close to the same both physically and mentally. Hazel, Harrison's mother, illustrates those in society who are below average, and she doesn't have to wear any handicaps. Harrison is, of course, the superman of society, both physically and mentally. He cannot be allowed to live once he tries to overthrow the government's control.

Vonnegut also shows the effect of the broadcast media on society. The Handicapper General uses radio signals to punish those who think the wrong thoughts or say the wrong things. He depicts television as having a numbing effect on people, to the point that they are desensitized by what they see. Hazel can't even remember that her son has been killed right in front of her.

For more examples, go to the link below.

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted February 10, 2008 at 6:53 AM (Answer #2)

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Harrison Bergeron has many meanings or themes throughout. Freedom is one theme that is seen often and in different lights in the story. First, there is no freedom for the characters in the story. There is no freedom of expression as we see through the ballerinas who are terrible to watch, there is no freedom to be an individual because of the equalizing forced handicaps everyone in the society must adorn all the time. Harrison's parents illustrate their own handicaps as they sit at home one evening. His father has sounds ringing in his ears and a heavy bag of bird-shot around his neck. Harrison shows us freedom through his attempted escape from his handicaps, which were abundant because he was such a physically and mentally phenomenal human being in this society.

To see more about themes in the story and the characters that represent them see the eNotes link below.

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ninjacatcher | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 22, 2009 at 6:37 AM (Answer #3)

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Life can be equal but it can never be fair becuase someone will always bare the heavier bag.

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walker16 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:35 AM (Answer #4)

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Life can be eqaul but never fair cause someone will always feel like they are carying the bigger and hevyer bags.

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