Jonathan Coburn Springer english 11/15/13
Social Criticism in Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” is full of social criticism of a world where everybody has been made equal. In this story Vonnegut shows how people would be made equal and the depressing it could be and how the opposite can be just as bad. One of the biggest criticism is to make everyone equal, they would have to be made incompetent to be equal with those below average ability in any area. The United States has become a dictatorship as the people give up freedom in exchange for equality.Television is Used as a method of control by the government and attempted as one by the titular Character Harrison
Bergeron. Harrison is also used as criticism by showing how when overthrowing a Tyrannical government, those do it must take care or the power will corrupt them.
In “Harrison Bergeron”, “the year was 2081 and everyone was finally equal.”(Vonnegut) Equality however came at a price with the lack of freedoms and lack of hope of becoming better than you were. Normal now deemed to be unnatural “So equality is archived through governmental force, both natural and unnatural”(
Joodaki). This can be seen
with George and Hazel and how they act. George was crippled by having a headphone making loud noise every twenty seconds so he can not use his intelligence. He also is afraid of change as when Hazel wants to reduce his physical handicaps he mentions it will lead to discord and chaos.
Hazel herself is considered to be perfectly normal in every way “In this story however “normal” entails one is incompetent and unable to fathom anything beyond what is superficial”(Cengage).
This is shown when harrison is killed on the television Hazel less than ten seconds later can not remember seeing her son get killed. And so what once was a ideal of peace and freedom has become the idea of tranny(Cengage). The United States in “Harrison Bergeron” gave up most of its freedoms with the 211th,
2112th, and 213th, amendments to the Constitution in exchange for equality. This is shown by
Vonnegut with the handicaps that are place on any the government considers to be above average such as the dancers forced to wear masks and bird short to make them ugly and not do their job right. The titular character is a bigger example at age 14 he was arres ted without trial and had some of the biggest handicaps put on him. He had over 300 pounds of scrap metal, large headphones instead of the earbuds other have, glasses with thick wavy lenses to make him half blind and give him headaches. When the Handicapper General bursts in the television studio she does not arrests Harrison “She fired twice and the Emperor and his Empress were dead before they hit the floor.”(Vonnegut) She then threatens the musicians of the same fate if they don’t put their handicaps back on in ten seconds. Some other examples of how the government tries to control the people is the punishment that it inflicts for affecting their handicaps “ two years in prison and a thousand dollar fine for every lead ball i took out” (Vonnegut). People are also afraid of change as George says if he reduce his handicaps when alone others would and they would go back to the dark ages(Mentor). So by using equality the United states has been turned into a dictatorship.
The use of television for control of the people is an important idea in this story. First the government uses television to distract the people about how their life is through use of various
entertainment.When announcing that Harrison has escape from prison it happens over television, however he is not called a dangerous psychopath as he would in real life but a athletic and a
Genius(Joodaki). Harrison himself realizes the power of television and when he can he makes his way to the television station to announce his reign as a emperor. He…