What overall conclusions can be drawn about the society depicted in the story "Harrison Bergeron"? [Consider how people must function and what has become "normal."]

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The society of Kurt Vonnegut's short story is one of forced equality, an equality that diminishes talent, intelligence, and beauty. Individuality exists no longer.

With the use of technical manipulation and the addition of three amendments to the Constitution, everyone is now "finally equal." But, it is an equality in mediocrity. For, Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General to whom Hazel Bergeron bears a strong resemblance, is the standard. In fact, as Hazel talks to her husband George, she remarks, "I think I'd make a good Handicapper General," and her husband responds, "Good as anybody else."

For those like George Bergeron and especially his son Harrison, as well as the pretty ballerinas, mandatory handicaps and masks serve to equalize their looks if they are prettier or their brains are keener. For instance, George must wear forty-seven pounds of bird shot around his neck. When he has certain thoughts, a twenty-one-gun salute fires in his head. The Bergeron's son, Harrison, is only fourteen, but he has been put into prison for plotting to overthrow the government. His creativity has, unfortunately, been channeled into revolutionary activities because his natural aptitudes have not been fostered. Stymied as he has been, Harrison also has to tote a plethora of handicaps. 

This forced equality and oppressive prison sentence has caused Harrison to rebel. When he comes to the television station, he attempts to free the beautiful ballerina that he makes his empress. Together they "leaped like deer on the moon." Ironically, it is Diana Moon Glampers who fires a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun, killing them, and making them equal again.

While all this occurs, the television goes off in the Bergeron home, and it blacks out whenever something happens to someone. This technology is numbing, and distracting, rather than intellectually stimulating.