Why was the killing of Harrison Bergeron so significant? Did Harrison have to die for the sake of society?

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In Kurt Vonnegut's 1961 short story "Harrison Bergeron ," the title character is murdered at the end of the story. The killer is Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General responsible for ensuring that everyone in the United States is equal to one another. Harrison's death is significant because it...

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In Kurt Vonnegut's 1961 short story "Harrison Bergeron," the title character is murdered at the end of the story. The killer is Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General responsible for ensuring that everyone in the United States is equal to one another. Harrison's death is significant because it shows the measures an authoritarian government will take to ensure its own survival.

When Harrison takes over the television studio, he states his intent to overthrow the government that has tried to dull his intelligence, strength, and even good looks. He encourages the musicians and ballerinas in the studio to cast off their handicaps. His murder at the end of the story comes as a surprise to most first-time readers, but is not illogical considering the government he lives under.

Each handicap, whether Harrison's three-hundred pounds of extra weight, or his father's ear radio, represents a level of oppression. When nothing works to dull Harrison, the government employs its most extreme handicap: death. Though execution of dissidents is common in authoritarian societies, Vonnegut used Diana Moon Glampers as the executioner rather than a nameless police officer or soldier. By having the person responsible for handicapping American citizens pull the trigger, Vonnegut makes Diana Moon Glampers a symbol for the entire government.

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Harrison Bergeron was born strong and beautiful in a world which is defined by weakness, ugliness, and stupidity. In the society's quest for equality, they have chosen to use handicaps and masks to reduce these qualities to the lowest level across the population. This is done to eliminate competition and jealousy.

George presents society's argument in his conversation with Hazel about removing some metal balls from his handicap bag.

If I tried to get away with it, ... then other people'd get away with it-and pretty soon we'd be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn't like that, would you?

In this light, inequality leads to competition, and society would "fall apart."

Harrison Bergeron questions that idea. By removing his handicaps and those of the ballerina, he attempts to subvert the idea of equality that society proposes. Their beauty and grace suggest that inequality is more than competition. This idea completely undermines society, which is completely built around the idea of forced equality.

Bergeron must die because he cannot and will not be handicapped, and he encourages others to remove their restraints. His rebellion is not only a threat to authority, but also a display of the possible advantages to inequality. If one person is better than everyone else, society is no longer equal. Killing him is essential to ensure that everyone remains equal.

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