Are the characters in "Harrison Bergeron" truly equal?

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They're only equal in the sense that they're all equally repressed by a cruel, manipulative regime that doesn't understand the value and importance of diversity. Human beings, of their very nature, are unequal in their respective talents, abilities and intellectual capacities. Yet in the dystopian society of "Harrison Bergeron ...

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They're only equal in the sense that they're all equally repressed by a cruel, manipulative regime that doesn't understand the value and importance of diversity. Human beings, of their very nature, are unequal in their respective talents, abilities and intellectual capacities. Yet in the dystopian society of "Harrison Bergeron," the government sees differences between humans as a bad thing, artificially constructed and imposed by the strong upon the weak. If the differences between us are environmental, not innate, then that means that the environment must be changed.

Among other things, this means embarking upon a massive project of social engineering in which handicaps are imposed on those individuals, like Harrison himself, whose natural endowments have been esteemed by society to the extent that these individuals are placed on a pedestal that puts them ahead of others less gifted. In other words, if society can artificially construct, say, sporting prowess as something worthy of veneration, so it can also opt to change that by equally artificial means—that is, handicaps.

And yet the government hasn't really abolished inequality at all; it's simply changed, in a rather crude and brutal fashion, how we should feel towards any degree of human excellence, be it physical, spiritual, or intellectual. Because our differences are innate, the repressive use of handicaps cannot ultimately change them. The government seems to acknowledge this—privately, at any rate—which is why it tries to manipulate and control the outward cultural and social manifestations of our human diversity.

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The citizens in the short story, “Harrison Bergeron,” are not equal because the society in which they live has a warped view of what equality is.  This dystopian society thinks equality is achieved by making everyone the same. Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, makes sure everyone is “equal” by giving them disabilities that oppress their natural talents and abilities.  Harrison, who is young, tall, and strong, is handicapped by wearing metal around his neck and thick “coke bottle” glasses so he cannot see well.  Because of his intelligence, George, Harrison’s father, is handicapped with earphones that blast loud noises in his ears so he can’t think clearly.

The society is this story doesn’t understand that equality means that you give everyone the same rights while celebrating their individuality and differences.  If everyone is given the same rights like freedom of speech or freedom of religion as outlined in the Bill of Rights and Constitution, then, in theory, everyone is equal.  Therefore, no one in Harrison Bergeron’s society will ever be equal until they change their perception of what equality truly is.

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