Do you think that impediments in Harrison Bergeron push the characters to greater heights? Why or why not?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the short story, the future citizens of the United States are subjected to rules and regulations that make everyone perfectly equal. The vigilant agents of the United States Handicapper General have managed to make competition obsolete by handicapping individuals with excess talent, intelligence, and beauty. These restrictions severely limit the citizens' abilities, and individuals who attempt to remove their specific restrictive devices are arrested. Generally speaking, these impediments do not push the majority of the population to greater heights. However, Harrison Bergeron would be considered the exception. Harrison's impediments motivate him to escape from prison, strip away his government issued weights, and attempt to overthrow the government. He is by far the most physically gifted member of society and wishes to live his life without restrictive devices. When Harrison speaks into the television cameras, he declares that he is the Emperor by saying,

"I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!" (Vonnegut, 3).

Harrison then strips away his restrictive weights and leaps into the air with a beautiful ballerina. Harrison's actions reflect his desire to become the best version of himself by living up to his potential. While the majority of the population is stifled by the government restrictions, citizens like Harrison are motivated to break free from their oppressive devices in order to excel in life.

pnhancock eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harrison Bergeron, the restrictions placed upon people certainly do not elevate them. In the story, those with natural strength, talent, and intelligence are deprived access to their positive traits by government-mandated restrictions. The titular character, Harrison, is one example of a person heavily restricted by law: he carries three hundred pounds of scrap metal to restrict his strength, wears giant earphones blaring static to interrupt his thoughts, and wears thick glasses that make him half-blind and unable to focus. Although Harrison shows fantastic skill and strength once he removes his handicaps, and even declares himself the "Emperor," this triumph is short-lived. Harrison is denied access to his natural talents for most of his life due to his handicaps, and after the brief period in which he is freed from his restraints, he is shot dead on television by a government employee. In this story, the impediments people experience greatly limit them, rather than improving them.