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The ending of "Harrison Bergeron," probably author Kurt Vonnegut's greatest short story, was a sad but not completely surprising conclusion. In a land controlled by government authoritarianism with its people too fearful to thrust off imposed handicaps, only the truest of romantics could expect the citizens to rise up immediately and follow the intellectual giant. Naturally, the governmental agents were concerned, and the expected action was taken. That Harrison's parents were quick to forget the atrocity is more surprising than their son's uprising or the murderous action taken by the H-G woman. American readers really shouldn't be too shocked: Our secretive government agencies--particularly the FBI and CIA--have abused their powers with murderous activities under the guise of patriotism for decades.
Obviously, your teacher wants your response, not the editors at enotes. However, there are some things that you may want to consider:
1. Does the story have verisimilitude? That is, does the ending follow logically from what has happened previously in the plot.
2. Is the theme of Bradbury's story worthy of consideration? Is it relevant today? (Consider some of the contemporary measures in education and hiring that have been made in an effort to "even the playing field," so to speak. Is it, then, possible to make everyone equal? Can measures go too far as in Bradbury's story?)
When you write your response, state first what the theme of Bradbury is in "Harrison Bergeron." Then, critique this theme by evaluating its worthiness and significance using the questions above as well as anything that you feel is relevant.
Depressing, isn't it? We are so conditioned to want happy endings that when we don't get one, it makes a big impact. But the ending is totally in keeping with the setting that Vonnegut has created. There is no allowance for anyone being better at anything than another, so the shooting of Harrison, and the fact that no one remembers it a minute later, are totally in keeping with the universe the author has made. I do wonder who is keeping track of what is happening...someone must have the ability to think, or they wouldn't even notice what was going on.
The story's ending has great significance to me because I identify it regarding wartime atrocities which annihilate targeted groups. It is also a strong comment on social conformity on a much more innocuous scale. Vonnegut’s story's ending warns individual readers that their contribution to society is valuable. Nearly everyone in the story has differing talents and gifts, which must be leveled by mechanical means, enforced by Dianna Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General. The enormous waste of such a ridiculous policy and the immeasurable loss to the society described in the story reminds readers to make use of the skills and talents they have.
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