In Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," what are some of Harrison's thoughts about being imprisoned?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A society that values mediocrity to the point of asserting oppressive measures in the name of equality is certainly the enemy of one so intelligent and talented as Harrison Bergeron, who is held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. Despite the three hundred pounds he wears and the disguising masks placed upon him, Harrison is listed as "underhandicapped" and "extremely dangerous."

When Harrison breaks out of prison and enters the television station where everything is desensitized and reinterpreted in order to shift ideas that might be counter-culture, he declares,

"I am the Emperor!" Everybody must do what I say at once!" 

Thus, his is complete revolution against the existing government. Of course, Harrison's having declared himself emperor and having demanded of the people total obedience indicate his attitude of complete superiority over others. Clearly, then, one so arrogant and brillant as Harrison Bergeron would perceive imprisonment as repugnant and insulting. 

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cpeac999's profile pic

cpeac999 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Harrison Bergeron lived in a world where all people were made "equal" through the use of handicaps: masks to hide their beauty, weights to encumber their strength, ear pieces to impede their thinking process. Harrison was 14 years old, extremely handsome, and unusually strong. While the piece does not let us into Harrison's thoughts, we can see by his actions that he is against the idea of this type of equality. He believes that each person is unique in their own way and it is this uniqueness that makes our world a great place.

The act of Harrison breaking out of prison shows the reader that he thinks his imprisonment was unjust. When he interrupts the ballet, he is demonstrating to us that he thinks people need to be shown the indignity of the law. By tearing off the handicaps of others, he is telling us he thinks they need to be reminded or told that it is good to be different and that the music is clearer, the dance cleaner, and the world more beautiful with diversity. His expression of “I am the Emperor,”  tells us he thinks everyone, regardless of their differences, has the right to be a leader.

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