In “Harrison Bergeron," what was author Kurt Vonnegut's purpose and the effect on the reader?

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We can never claim to understand an author's purpose completely unless he or she specifically states what it is, but we can certainly make some inferences about Vonnegut's intentions for "Harrison Bergeron." The story shows us a world in which everyone has been made "equal" by providing handicaps that eliminate any advantages people might have, be they in talent, intelligence, strength, or beauty. Vonnegut takes the concept of equality to a ridiculous extreme to show the reader what could happen if we decide to take a push for equality too far and blindly follow authority. He argues we would then become a nation of mindless robots, giving up all aspects of ourselves that are of value. Vonnegut twisted the idea of equality to mean, not equality of opportunity or of treatment, but equality of qualities, so that no one can be too intelligent, too beautiful, or too talented. This, Vonnegut warns us, is the dumbing down of America, a race to the bottom, rather than a meritocracy that celebrates, cultivates, and rewards people's gifts and hard work. Some people might think there is an anti-socialist or anti-communist bent to the story, but Vonnegut did state in an interview that he once voted for a socialist candidate. In most of his writing and interviews, he seems to be generally resisting idiocy in government. One hopes the effect of this story on the reader is a dawning awareness that equality could be twisted and go too far in America and that one should not blindly obey a government that is destroying its people. The details are humorous and meant to be entertaining, but "Harrison Bergeron" is also meant as a warning.

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