Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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What is the underlying message of "Harrison Bergeron?"

The main message of Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron" concerns the importance of balancing equality with freedom and individualism. The story demonstrates how equality is not to be confused with "sameness" and warns of the disastrous effects of suppressing individuality.

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The underlying message of "Harrison Bergeron," which does not lie very far from the surface, is that this type of equality is not worth the price you have to pay for it. Given the handicaps with which he has been weighed down, Harrison, understandably, rejects the concept of equality altogether and wants to create a society of vigorous individualism. Vonnegut's view, however, is subtler than that of his protagonist. He does not necessarily regard it as a bad idea for opportunities to be distributed equally (at least, there is nothing in the text to suggest this). However, he clearly sees that forcing equality of outcome on a society would reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator. The government handicaps the intelligent so that they are no longer exceptional in relation to others.

There is a related point about the confusion surrounding the word "equality." Apart from differentiating equality of opportunity from equality of outcome, there is a more basic mistake, emphasized in...

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