Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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How does Vonnegut use dramatic irony in Harrison Bergeron?

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Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows something that the characters in a story do not.

In Harrison Bergeron, George and Hazel buy in completely to their society's values. The chief value is that everyone must be equal. Anyone who stands out in any way is given a "handicap" so that he or she will be no better than anyone else. George, for example, is highly intelligent, so loud noises go off in his ears from a radio transmitter that he is legally required to wear in his ear:

Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel both think it is perfectly reasonable that George should be handicapped in this way. They think of their son, Harrison, who rebels against this system, as "abnormal"—they find nothing wrong with the system itself.

This is an example of dramatic irony because we, as an audience, know it is utterly absurd (laughable) and destructive for a society to treat its citizens this way and to refuse to use their talents and abilities.

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