How would you rewrite the ending of this story? If Harrison was NOT killed and became Emperor?? What kind of changes do you think he'd make?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The ending of Harrison Bergeron could possibly be much different if he were to survive Diana Moon Glampers's attack and successfully usurp power to become Emperor of the United States. Harrison Bergeron is clearly in favor of individuality and would more than likely alter the Constitution and ban laws requiring individuals to wear cumbersome handicaps to limit their abilities. He personally understands the negatives attached to limiting individuals' talents and abilities, which might influence him to end the oppressive laws enacted to create a completely equal society. If Harrison were to amend the Constitution and ban the laws requiring handicaps, the entire landscape of the United States would be different. Extremely talented individuals would quickly rise to power and competition would dramatically increase, which could possibly lead to conflict or the creation of monopolies. One could argue that if Harrison were to allow individuality, the landscape of the United States would be similar to the makeup of modern society.

However, Harrison Bergeron is also portrayed as an authoritarian, who desires complete power. After claiming that he is the emperor, Harrison demands that the citizens do as he says at once. Harrison's attitude and thirst for power may influence his decision to alter the rules requiring handicaps. Despite the fact that he strips the handicaps from the ballerina's body and proceeds to gracefully leap into the air, one could argue that Harrison would support the current laws requiring handicaps to solidify his power and prevent others from threatening his authority. Harrison is fully aware that individuality is empowering and his desire for ultimate authority could possibly influence him to maintain the oppressive environment, which has been cultivated in America. Therefore, one could argue that the dystopian United States would remain the same as Harrison rules with unopposed authority and ultimate power.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Harrison would begin the revolution focusing on getting the scientists, doctors, engineers, and all the other smartest members of society void of handicaps and operating to their utmost capacity.  It would be these people who he would hire as his advisors, for he knows that they, not the smooth talking, lobbyist driven politicians could best aid him in his quest for reformation.  With the help of this inteligensia, Harrison would write a new "Constitution" much briefer than the previous one, only including laws that are necessary and enforceable.  He would set harsh consequences for anyone who broke the laws.

His next venture would be to restore the painters, artists, actors, dancers, and athletes to their full potential and set up institutions for these people to thrive.  He may employ his wife, the most beautiful dancer, to head up this committee.  Through her works, society would be very much cultured and hold high value for the arts, entertainment and athletics.  I hope this is not sounding too utopic, for Harrison would be a fair, but strict ruler.  He'd be void of corruption, but people would still live in fear of him and his merciless rule against anyone who failed to contribute to or deranged society.  His mother would not do well in his world, but his father would be just fine.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I can't keep up with the satire here, but the first thing he would do is eliminate the "equalizers" which have encumbered him and set him apart--only to find that it is his natural gifts which set him apart, and he cannot get rid of those. I suspect he would not be sympathetic toward his parents, and I wonder about how his future relationship with television would look. Complicated, at best, I think.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Considering Vonnegut’s penchant for satire, I would rewrite it with Harrison becoming a thoughtful leader at first but devolving into a ruthless dictator. Harrison would establish the rule that all cultural entertainment and social interaction must have some practical benefit. There would be no mind-numbing television, no art that doesn’t have a social component and there would no art or business that doesn’t contribute to the progression of human performance. At first, this is extremely successful, but in a few years this limiting and regimented system breaks down because people require freedom of expression and “down time.” Harrison is eventually ousted and put back in prison. His crime is listed as “the mechanization of human history.”

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team