Harrison Bergeron

The Moral of the Story Harrison Bergeron

The modern world is filled with talks about equality. Humankind wants it, an individual aims for it, and governments pay much attention to the issue. Despite the attempts to achieve equality, the world is not equal, though there were tremendous steps toward equalizing it. People in civilized and democratic countries enjoy equal freedoms and access to opportunities as long as they are willing to work for them. However, even in such states, many people feel like there is no equality because some individuals are born into families with more resources or connections, and that fact determines their future.

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The society with absolute equality, which is based on the case of every person being lowered to a mass level, is central in the story by Kurt Vonnegut called “Harrison Bergeson”. The work describes the anti-utopian world, in which talented people are handicapped so that not talented ones do not feel bad. Moreover, it is considered wrong to demonstrate one’s talents because it may cause the jealousy of others. As a result, people are turned into stupid masses with a limited perception of the world. The moral of the story is that equality should not prevent individual development and healthy competition because it will only lead to personality problems. Instead, equality has to guarantee that a person has the same rights, but it depends on an individual how to use them.

In the story, the family of Harrison Bergeson does not even realize that their son is taken away from them to the prison. The mother is not smart so she cannot remember things for long, and the father who is smart has to deal with a huge pressure from the government affecting his mental capacities. As a result, he is unable to think clearly, too, just so his dumber wife does not feel bad. The reason the father named George is being mentally handicapped is due to his intellectual talents, which are above average, and, therefore, wrong. The society enjoys perfect equality where nobody “was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.

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All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General” (Vonnegut). Upon reading this passage, readers get a feeling that there is something wrong with the described society. After all, there are people, who are prettier than others; there are individuals, who are smarter, more talented, faster, or more artistic. However, with everybody being so “perfectly” equal, what should the gifted people do with their talents? The society in the story tells that people should not develop or show off their talents, but be average so nobody feels bad or jealous. However, with such an approach, a person will never perfect one’s capacities, achieve its peak or do something others would admire. The absolute equality in the story places a burden on the talented people because they are forced to remain average, and that ruins their spirits, minds, and perception of reality.

Truly, the world with such kind of equality is not equal at all. When the government in the story established equality, it only hurt the people. The talented persons did not have the opportunity to improve. For instance, ballerinas on TV were not very good simply because it was wrong to be better than others. When looking at them, George Bergeron thinks: “They weren’t really very good – no better than anybody else would have been, anyway.

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They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in” (Vonnegut). The ballerinas could be excellent if they did not feel the burdens of equality, and were given the ability to practice. On the other hand, untalented people were also deprived of the opportunity to improve. By “equalizing” everyone, society approves being stupid, slow, etc., so people who lacked talents (but who could still develop them) were not even trying. The primitive average citizen of such a country was perfectly content with being a fool with no memory, and the government was working hard to turn everybody else into such citizens.

The message in the story is scary; the message strengthens the moral of the story. It is impossible to forcefully make people equal by depriving them of their rights to learn, improve, and compete. People ought to have the ability to develop their talents, and they also should be granted a chance to compete. Only healthy competition among people who are good at things they are doing can build a functioning society. After all, equality does not mean turning everyone into a stupid citizen with no ambitions but providing each person with an opportunity to reach their ambitions.

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The story ends with Harrison Bergeron escaping the prison and arriving at the same place where ballerinas danced. After declaring himself an emperor, he manages to make one of the ballerinas reveal her talents and does the same to the musicians. Harrison states: “Even as I stand here … crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!” (Vonnegut). With these words, he shows his real strength and talents, only to be killed a moment later by the handicapped general. It shows how the anti-utopian society the author described does not only try to equalize people by making them low and foolish but destroys any individuality and uniqueness. It is the situation that modern society should never let happen. People have to prevent such horrifying “equalization” because it is immoral and contradicts basic human rights. People ought to enjoy equal chances, but they should also have a possibility to win if they deserve it, or lose, if the person still needs more practice and knowledge. Only such equality is a healthy phenomenon, and it is the main message and moral of the story.


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