What does equality mean in "Harrison Bergeron"?And what exactly is the author satirizing?

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In "Harrison Bergeron," Vonnegut is satirizing our collective notion that all people must be equal.  In the story, the fictional society that Vonnegut creates is made to be equal in all ways:  the smarter people are given mental handicaps to prevent them from thinking, the graceful dancers are given weighted bags to prevent them from being so graceful, and beautiful people are given physical props to mask their true appearance.  In the story, the members of society get nowhere--they cannot even function on a level that makes anyone productive.  The satire presents the people as absurd and ridiculous to voice the message that our attempts to always make people equal are similarly absurd and ridiculous.  In the advent of civil rights and other rights such as equality in the workplace, our society has gone to an extreme by suggesting that people should be equal in all areas, not simply that we should be treated with equal respect.  Vonnegut uses the story to suggest that our human differences are the avenue to our advances.  For example, what would the Olympics be without superior athletes to engage in competition?  So, "Harrison Bergeron" challenges the notion of blanket human equality.

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