What are the themes of the short story, "Harrison Bergeron," by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.?  

Expert Answers
kathik eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main theme in "Harrison Bergeron," by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is equality, but it is not the kind of equality which people generally desire. Vonnegut's short story is a warning that complete equality creates many problems and can even bring with it danger. When everyone is completely equal in "Harrison Bergeron," individuals are basically tortured for being better than anyone at anything. The intelligent wear mental handicaps, the athletic wear physical handicaps, the beautiful wear hideous masks to hid their beauty. In Vonnegut's story, everyone is fearful and nobody (except Harrison) can think for him/herself any longer.

Along with the theme of equality, there is the theme of total conformity. The government runs lives. The government can murder citizens who are so gifted their handicaps do nothing, like Harrison. The people are completely brainwashed to believe the government can do no wrong.

Third is the theme of power through media. The television is constantly running. Again, this is a warning that sitting in front of a TV all day is mind numbing. It acts as a drug for the people, and it is used to keep the people in check. Harrison's murder is broadcast, so that nobody else will think of doing the same. "Look what happens if you do not do exactly what you are supposed to do!  Bam!"