In "Harrison Bergeron," why is the punishment for removing a handicap so harsh?

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juneamy007 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this futuristic society, the goal the government is trying to attain is equality of the people.  This is not being done by improving people's circumstances.  Rather, people are being handicapped to reach the lowest levels of physical attributes.  Beauty is hidden.  Intelligence is thwarted. Strong or athletic people are laden with weights.

Should one try to go without their handicap, even in the privacy of their own home, the fear is that others would try to get away without their handicaps, too.  This would lead to a society where some people might try to go public without their handicaps.  That would lead back to a society where some people are smarter, or better looking, or stronger and agiler than others.  That would in turn lead to competition.  Better to be average looking, thinking, and fit in this equal world.