What is the moral of Harrison Bergeron?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Just as no two things in nature are exactly the same, people are not meant to be the same. 

People vary in their looks; they vary in their talents and intelligences [alluding to Gardner's Intelligences], they vary in size. There is nothing evil about this, nor anything wrong with it; this is the state of life. "All men are created equal" does not mean they must be the same.

The greatest evil about everyone being "equal" in Harrison Bergeron's society is that the only way to make everyone "finally equal" is to dumb everyone down, not raise people's intelligence. Similarly, everyone is made to look "average" and to have no abilities that are superior to others. What a dull world, and a cruel one that punishes the bright and creative and athletic and beautiful. It is no wonder that Harrison rebelled. What incentive can there be to achieve anything, what motivation can there be to act with courtesy or courage or other virtues? Without individuality, people lose what it is to be human.

It is, indeed, an insipid world that has "everyone finally equal."

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kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are a number of possible morals to be drawn from Harrison Bergeron. One of the first is the inevitability of certain kinds of inequality. It is impossible to suggest that all humankind can be equal in the sense that different people have different talents and that there should be opportunities for people to express and explore their talents as they provide all kinds of wonderful things to the human race.

Another possible moral is the irrepressible nature of humanity demonstrated by Bergeron's incredible ability to withstand so much resistance and to free those around him to demonstrate their beautiful talents. The fact that he was both motivated and able to throw off all the impediments that had been placed upon him suggest the power of the human spirit.

One more possible moral might be the dangers of wanting to make people equal in ways that are impossible and immoral. It is certainly moral to help people have equal opportunity and equal rights but trying to level the playing field when it comes to unique talents and capacities is absurd.

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