Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How does Vonnegut establish the theme of equality in the story? What are some telling moments that build this theme?

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,232 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

In the opening paragraph of the story, Vonnegut boldly establishes the theme of equality by declaring that "everybody was finally equal" in the year 2081 and people were completely equal in all facets of life. Vonnegut then writes,

Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.

Vonnegut proceeds to comment on the seminal amendments that created complete uniformity in America and mentions the United States Handicapper General, which is the government agency in charge of establishing equality.

Vonnegut continues to establish the theme of equality by describing George Bergeron's handicaps to inform the audience of the oppressive methods the government employs to ensure complete equality. The cumbersome, uncomfortable handicaps are a jarring feature that contributes to the theme, which is underscored by Harrison's appearance. Harrison is depicted as an athletic genius, whose handicaps make him look like a "walking junkyard."

The masked, weighted ballerinas on the TV also contribute to the theme of equality and the audience is able to grasp the oppressive, depressing environment of a completely uniform dystopian America.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial