How does the society in "Harrison Bergeron" affect the thoughts and reactions of the people? 

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mdelmuro | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In "Harrison Bergeron," the government refuses to allow citizens to have original thoughts and prohibits their reactions to certain incidents in order to possess autocratic authority over everyone. The society permits this control in order to promote a perverse equality that forces all Americans to reduce themselves to the level of the least of its citizens in order to avoid competition.

George and Hazel Bergeron are perfect examples of this perverse equality. George possesses intelligence that is "way above normal," while Hazel "couldn't think about anything except in short bursts." In order to make them equal, Hazel is not given a special education; rather George has a mental handicap installed in his ears that "keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains."

The society permits this equality because it seems as if some past conflict was created by competition, which is why George is okay with his handicaps. When Hazel suggests that he remove some bird shot from a 47-pound bag he has to wear, George declines by saying that if he and others removed their handicaps "we'd be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else." With society allowing the government to remove any chance of original thought, there is no chance of an uprising or even a democratic challenging of the powers. Instead, in the name of equality, people have decided to give up their individuality to become non–free-thinking people.

This story serves as a reminder that powers, governmental, religious, or economic, will often try to remove individuality in order to exert greater control over their followers.

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