How does Vonnegut use exaggeration to show the tragedy of sacrificing individuality for equality?

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The entire short story "Harrison Bergeron" is an exaggeration of the idea of sacrificing one's individuality in order to be equal. Right at the beginning, Vonnegut states, "Everybody was finally equal. . . . Nobody was smarter than anyone else. No one was better looking than anyone else." The catch to this is that each character in the story is living a robotic life. Harrison's mother, Hazel, is crying, but she doesn't really know why. His father, George, has thoughts that "fle[e] in panic" after a buzzer sounds in his brain. While each character is supposedly equal, they have no real thoughts or emotions. We also know that Harrison has been taken to jail. We later find out it is because he was able to break free of all his handicaps.

The setting is the Bergerons' living room, where George and Hazel are watching a television program with ballerinas performing. The ballerinas also have handicaps to ensure they are all equal. Throughout the performance, George and Hazel talk in short bursts. All of their conversations are superficial and short, usually with an abrupt ending when one forgets what they are speaking of.

Toward the middle of the story, Harrison bursts onto the TV program after having escaped from jail. He declares himself the emperor and then asks which of the ballerinas will be his empress. One stands, and they dance. Shortly after, the Handicapper General comes into the studio and shoots them on public TV. They die almost immediately.

The exaggeration is explicitly demonstrated when Hazel and George hardly recognize what is going on. They simply watch, and then George retreats to the kitchen to get a beer. When he returns, he questions Hazel about why she's been crying. She states she can't remember, but it was something to do with what was on TV; she says the program must've been a "doozy." George tells her to forget sad things, and she responds that she always does.

If a child were to get shot on television, the parents would be distraught, and they certainly wouldn't forget within seconds of it happening. The casualness of going to the kitchen to get a beer right after the death is another example of exaggeration. Their son dying on television should be a tragedy for Hazel and George, but because they have been forced to give up their individuality and essentially their humanity, they don't even recognize what has happened in their life.

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At the end of the story, the attempt to enforce "equality" is taken out to an absurd degree. Harrison is so handsome and talented that he must wear a red ball on his nose, shave his eyebrows, and make his mouth look snaggle-toothed. He is also forced to wear many pounds of junk attached to his body to weigh him down, and headphones and spectacles that impair his hearing and seeing. Likewise, the ballerina must wear an ugly mask and "handicap bags" to keep her from dancing well.

This kind of exaggeration shows the absurdity and foolishness of trying to build a society that tries to keep everyone equal at all costs.

The response to Harrison tearing off all the items meant to handicap him and removing the ballerina's mask and bags is also exaggerated: they are both shot and killed with a rifle on live television by the Handicapper General. This exaggerated ending emphasizes the sheer waste of destroying talented people rather than allowing them to develop their gifts.

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