Can someone list some figurative language in "Harrison Bergeron"?Kurt Vonnegut

Expert Answers
laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kurt Vonnegut uses multiple types of figurative language in "Harrison Bergeron." Some examples include: 

  • "His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm." (22)
  • "In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds." (24)
  • "Harrison's appearance was Halloween and hardware. (24)"
  • "Harrison looked like a walking junkyard." (24)
  • "Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it." (25)
  • "Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds." (25)

Figurative language uses words or expressions in a way different from their literal meaning. Vonnegut utilizes different types of figurative language in his short story both to depict the scene for the reader and to establish the character of Harrison as someone impressive and larger than life.

"His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm." This is an example of personification. Personification is a type of figurative language where a non-human thing is given human qualities. In this case, his thoughts (not human) are fleeing like bandits.

"In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds." Vonnegut used this statement as hyperbole to establish Harrison's character as one with a heavy burden. Hyperbole is an exaggeration. Harrison doesn't really carry 300 pounds in a race—he is unduly weighed down by the handicaps deemed necessary for him by society. 

"Harrison's appearance was Halloween and hardware." This is a metaphor, which is a comparison between two dissimilar things. Harrison's appearance clearly is not a holiday or a set of tools or equipment. But Vonnegut uses the metaphor to create an image for the reader—of a man with grotesque, inhuman handicaps imposed by the state.

"Harrison looked like a walking junkyard." This is a simile, which is a comparison that uses the words "like" or "as." Vonnegut uses it to paint a picture of Harrison in his audience's mind. 

"Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it." This is another example of hyperbole along with a simile. Vonnegut exaggerates Harrison's treatment of the musicians because no one could wave people as easily as a light baton. He also compares the musicians to batons. 

"Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds." This is another example of hyperbole. Vonnegut exaggerates the way Harrison tears the straps, and he exaggerates the weight they could support. His use of figurative language creates a picture in the reader's mind that merely stating basic facts could not.

In "Harrison Bergeron," Vonnegut uses figurative language to set the scene for the reader and clearly establish Harrison as a character. The repeated use of figurative language in the story makes clear for the reader both the extent of Harrison's abilities and his resulting handicaps.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Kurt Vonnegut's satire, "Harrison Bergeron," there are, among others, the following elements of figurative language:

SATIRE

The entire first paragraph is satiric as Vonnegut writes that in the year 2081 "everybody was finally equal."  People are "equal" in intelligence, physical appearance, and athletic abilty:

All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

This satire continues into the next paragraph in which the author writes that "it was tragic."

Of course, the satiric language and tone continues throughout the story.

VERBAL IRONY

It is clear in the first paragraph of the story that Vonnegut is using the words equal and equality ironically.

METAPHOR

In describing the metaphor, the narrator states,

Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.

But, after apologizing [satire], she made her voice "uncompetitive": "Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen," she said in a grackle squawk....

In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set.

 

SIMILE

but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard.

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper,...

The bar snapped like celery

They leaped like deer on the moon.

UNDERSTATEMENT

Within the example above on metaphor, there is understatement, as well:

...and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

PERSONIFICATION

The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again,....

...for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune [figurative language]

ALLUSION

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder

HYPERBOLE

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, reavealed a man that would have awed Thor..... [obvious exaggeration=hyperbole]

They leaped like deer on the moon.