What is the underlying message of "Harrison Bergeron?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Many dystopian stories end with a message of hope, of the possibility that the system will change, the people will rise up and evil will be vanquished. Not so with "Harrison Bergeron." This story is deliberately bleak and depressing; here, total government control of the populace is not only inevitable, but impossible to fight.

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.
(Vonnegut, "Harrison Bergeron," tnellen.com)

One strong message of the story is that the attempt to make everyone equal, not only in status (all men are created equal) but in fact, results in stagnation of culture and society. Instead of treating all people the same way, the government here attempts to make everyone physically and mentally the same so nobody will feel badly. The result is total control of the populace, and when Harrison rebels, he is struck down as evil, a man who rightly believes himself to be superior to others. Exceptionalism is therefore seen as a negative trait, while the pursuit of the perfect average is seen as moral.

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