In "Harrison Bergeron," what are Kurt Vonnegut's satirical targets?

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The science-fiction short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut is set in the year 2081. To discern what Vonnegut's satirical targets are, read the story carefully and note where he uses absurdities and exaggerations to make his point.

According to the story, after the passing of certain...

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The science-fiction short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut is set in the year 2081. To discern what Vonnegut's satirical targets are, read the story carefully and note where he uses absurdities and exaggerations to make his point.

According to the story, after the passing of certain Constitutional amendments, strict equality is enforced by law. The United States Handicapper General and her agents monitor citizens closely to ensure that the laws dictating equality are enforced. Harrison's father George, for instance, has above-normal intelligence, so the government has demanded that he should wear earphones that let loose loud noises to prevent him from formulating complex thoughts. He also wears a 47-pound canvas bag of bird shot around his neck to limit his strength. George's wife Hazel doesn't need handicaps because she is already of average intelligence and strength. The ballerinas that George and his wife watch on TV are similarly handicapped with weights, and they also have to wear horrific masks so that they will not appear overly beautiful.

Harrison Bergeron is an anomaly in that he is tall, strong, handsome, and highly intelligent. The government kidnaps him and places formidable handicaps on him, but he manages to escape. He instigates a rebellion on live TV before he is ruthlessly shot by the Handicapper General.

Satire in literature is a technique in which writers use exaggeration, ridicule, and humor to focus on the shortcomings of individuals or societies. In "Harrison Bergeron," Vonnegut's satire targets the overemphasis on legislating equality in democracies such as the United States. Although we of course want everyone to have equal opportunities in life, sometimes legislation undertaken to achieve this ignores that individuals have unique skills and talents, and these skills and talents are what enable people to achieve excellence in intellectual and athletic endeavors. If you take away individual skills and talents by force of law, you deprive the world of diversity and growth, and all that is left is mediocrity.

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