How does "Harrison Bergeron" convey the conflict between the needs of ideals of society and the realities of individuals?

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rdb919 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," there is a contrast between society's needs and the individual's reality. This is the central conflict in the story. In this story, equality at any cost is the goal of society. everyone must be equal and if they have to wear handicaps to do so, then they must. For the society as a whole, the ideal of equality is appealing and deemed fair and right. So the fast are slowed down with weights, the beautiful are covered with masks, etc. In theory, for this society, the idea is just. However, in reality, individuals suffer by being forced to be equal, and this is Vonnegut's message. The individual's reality of beauty or talent being hidden for the greater good of society is frustrating and miserable. Harrison, as an example, wishes to and eventually does break free of his handicaps to have a moment of individual, self-expression that is separate from society. The results are disastrous, which is to show readers how often the needs of society and the reality of the individual are often in conflict.