Essay English Reading Response

Submitted By JeanVanWyk
Words: 711
Pages: 3

English Reading Response: ‘Harrison Bergeron’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I have chosen to read ‘Harrison Bergeron’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I found the text to be an interesting example of a dystopia. Though I could not connect with the characters or the setting easily, I still found it to be a good text to read. A theme I thought that was interesting and prevalent throughout the short story was that we are not equals if we have our freedom and individuality taken away from us.

The text is about a man and a woman who had their fourteen year old son, Harrison Bergeron, taken to prison. We discover that his parents couldn’t concentrate on it. “It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard.” Later on in the text, we read about how all people are now ‘equal’, and those who possess seemingly superior qualities were forced to limit themselves to stay at the same level of advantage as others through ‘handicaps’. In other words, to be at the ‘average’. It explains why his parents didn’t seem to care. This leads them to be dehumanized in a sense, as they are robbed of their freedom and individuality. We then read that their son escapes, and discover that he was against the system, and was imprisoned because he wanted to be his own individual. This proves that people’s freedom and individuality were taken away from them. I feel like the text showed me how unfair the world is by comparing it to something with ‘equality’. It made me think about all of the freedoms we have that we all take for granted.

I enjoyed the way that Vonnegut hinted towards a masked dystopia without making it obvious that it was one. Vonnegut writes, “They weren’t only equal before God and the Law. They were equal in every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” This implies that no one was allowed to have the freedom of being themselves, and were all ‘cancelled out’, turned into ‘defaults’, and lost their own identities because they could not embrace themselves. In fact, these things were enforced through extreme measures. “…while his intelligence was way above normal, (George) had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.” This again reinforces the idea that people in this setting that are ‘above average’ are not be able to learn and