In "Harrison Bergeron," why is Harrison considered a threat to society?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Kurt Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron," the title character is considered a threat to society because he cannot be contained by both the physical and symbolic handicaps this totalitarian society places on him. 

in "Harrison Bergeron," "The year was 2081 and everybody was finally equal." But this equality has nothing to do with the possibilities of every individual having the freedom of reaching great heights, but rather has to do with the government reducing the exceptionalism of those with above average intelligence, physicality, athleticism and even beauty. These things seem to be desired by this society as even George Bergeron, who is weighed down by 47 pounds of birdshot because of his strength would rather keep his handicaps than return to the "dark ages" with "everybody competing against everybody else."

These methods of control are common in totalitarian regimes as original thought and excellence are often frowned upon. Harrison's handicaps symbolize this society's attempt at control by removing the possibility of excellence. 

Harrison, however, does not let his government-imposed handicaps slow him down. On TV, he rips up his mental handicaps like "tissue" paper and snaps his physical handicaps off "like celery," symbolicaly proving how easy it is to throw off these methods of control. In addition, His freedom from these handicaps liberates Harrison so much that he is able to leap up "30 feet high" to kiss the ceiling.

By ripping off these handicaps, Harrison becomes such a threat to the Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers that she shoots him. She knows that once people rip off their handicaps, they become a threat to her ability to control the people.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team