How does the short story, "Harrison Bergeron" by Vonnegut Jr. is similar and different from the Poem "The Unknown Citizen" by W.H. Auden?What are their ideas and attitudes?

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title characters in these two pieces of literature are complete opposites.

The "unknown citizen" was a complete conformist in every respect of his life and activities. He fulfilled his job duties acceptably, met his financial obligations (union dues, health insurance, material possessions), got along well with co-workers and friends. He acted and reacted exactly as he was supposed to as an absolutely average man in all the ways measured "by the Bureau of Statistics."

Harrison Bergeron, on the other hand, was had exceptional characteristics that demanded compensation in the form of numerous handicapping devices. His handsome facial features were hidden behind "a red rubber ball...nose" and "black caps at snaggle-tooth random." His athletic ability was hampered by the three hundred pounds of metal hanging all over his body. Most of all, Harrison's actions were completely against cultural expectations, as he seized the opportunity to demonstrate the unique characteristics he possessed and demanded the same individuality of the ballerina and the musicians.

At the end of the respective pieces, the unknown citizen was apparently alive but devoid of any indication of feeling free, happy or fulfilled in his existence. Harrison Bergeron was murdered, but before he died he seized the opportunity to express his complete and true existence and potential.