What is the purpose of the handicaps in "Harrison Bergeron"?

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This is a dystopian future (2081) in which the government has established new laws (211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution) to enforce a doctrine of equality. The government has decided that, in order to keep people happy while avoiding any feelings of superiority or inferiority, handicaps will be...

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This is a dystopian future (2081) in which the government has established new laws (211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution) to enforce a doctrine of equality. The government has decided that, in order to keep people happy while avoiding any feelings of superiority or inferiority, handicaps will be used to enforce this equality. If someone is a genius, he/she will be given mental handicaps to bring him/her down to a common, median level. If someone is attractive, he will be given cosmetic handicaps to make him less attractive. If someone is a superior athlete, she will be given physical handicaps to bring her down to everyone else's level. 

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. 

Hazel has average intelligence so she has no handicaps. She is at that median average. George is above average so he has to endure a mental handicap that prevents him from thinking too deeply about anything. He must wear his handicap at all times. 

Their son, Harrison, is supremely gifted. Therefore, he has been given the most debilitating handicaps the Handicapper General can come up with. Harrison is so gifted that he eventually sheds his handicaps. However, he indulges in his self-glorifying moment and is shot by the Handicapper General. The television program is cut out, leaving George and Hazel alone and without the ability to recall what they had just seen. In this story, everyone is equal but it comes at the cost of mental and physical oppression. 

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The purpose of the handicaps is to make everyone equal. All of us are born with natural skills and abilities that other people don't have. Some people may be good at sports, others may have superior academic abilities. But in the dystopian nightmare world of "Harrison Bergeron," natural differences between people are considered completely unacceptable.

The Handicapper-General, Diana Moon Glampers, is determined to make sure that no one gains a special advantage over anyone else because of their natural abilities. This is where handicaps come in. Harrison—a tall, athletic young man—is forced to wear heavy weights that slow him down. Harrison's father George is a highly intelligent man. But no one must be allowed to be smarter than anyone else in this society, so he's handicapped by a radio device that emits loud noises into his ears at regular intervals, which prevent him from being able to think.

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Supposedly, the purpose of the handicaps is to make all citizens in Harrison's world equal. The definition of equality leaves much to be desired in his dystopian world, though.

For example, no one is allowed to be better-looking, more talented, stronger, or smarter than anyone else. The government has just passed the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, which are ostensibly laws that ensure equality for all. Government agents under the jurisdiction of the United States Handicapper General are tasked with ensuring universal compliance, which means no dissent is allowed. Basically, we have a totalitarian form of government here, and all citizens are expected to comply under pain of death.

In the story, Harrison's father, George, must wear a handicap radio tuned to a government transmitter. When he has unusually intelligent thoughts, the radio sends out sharp and disorienting noises to scatter his thought processes. Later, we discover that Harrison must wear considerable handicaps in order to hide his physical beauty and intelligence.

Harrison must wear a huge pair of earphones, thick glasses, and three hundred pounds of scrap metal. Then, to ensure his good looks are well hidden, Harrison must wear a red, rubber ball over his nose, keep his eyebrows shaved, and cover any straight teeth with black caps. The main purpose of the handicaps is to ensure that no one has an advantage over another person. Although the handicaps are meant to ensure total equality, they serve instead as tools of universal oppression.

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