At the end of Kurt Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron," Harrison screams, "I am the Emperor!" Do you think Harrison is a hero or a danger to his society?

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mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The end of "Harrison Bergeron," when Harrison shouts on TV that "I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!" he shows that he is a danger to American society in the year 2081. While we look at him as the story's hero because he's challenging a social order we may find offensive, it's important to recognize him as a threat.

In "Harrison Bergeron," Harrison is taken away from his family because of his extraordinary abilities. The government places him in elaborate handicaps to ensure that he was "equal every which way" to everyone else. At the end of the story, when he rips off his handicaps "like wet tissue paper," he challenges the laws of the land created and supported by the American people and the "211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution." This makes him a danger to his society.

However, it's important to understand that any individual who challenges the social order can be considered dangerous. For example, in the 1960s, the FBI tracked Martin Luther King, Jr. because they saw him as a threat to society. If we treat the New Testament as literature, the execution of Jesus occurs precisely because he challenges the social order. 

In dystopian literature, the heroes, or antiheroes, in this case, often end up dead because they are threats. In the movie V for Vendetta, V is a dangerous person, but he's the hero of the film because he plots an overthrow of this government, much in the way Harrison does in the Kurt Vonnegut story.

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Harrison Bergeron

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