Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron book cover
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When Harrison Bergeron is completely free from his handicaps, he defies the laws of gravity and motion. What might Vonnegut be suggesting about the potential of free human beings?

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Vonnegut is most probably offering us a political metaphor for what can happen when people throw off the shackles of government control and live their lives the way they want to.

The totalitarian government in "Harrison Bergeron" wants to control all aspects of its citizens lives. As part of its desire for total control, it lumbers gifted individuals like Harrison with so-called handicaps which drag them down to a general level of mediocrity designed to ensure complete equality between all citizens.

But Harrison's a very special young man, and once he finally manages to free himself from his handicaps, he's able to explore his potential to the fullest. Of course, in real life, one can't do what Harrison does and defy the laws of gravity; that's why his actions can only be understood at a metaphorical level.

What Vonnegut is alluding to here is the perennial fact that governments, even those motivated by the very best of intentions, can all-too-often constrain the freedom of the individual. If there's one overriding message from "Harrison Bergeron," it's that human beings are only able to develop their true potential if they live in a society where freedom is valued above all else and where the political system cherishes and enhances that freedom.

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