Harrison Bergeron And Fahrenheit 451: An Analysis

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Since the age of Thomas Moore, intellectuals have been fascinated by the idea of an ideal society where all is well and total happiness is readily available to all of its members. Such ideals of a ‘utopia’ continued throughout the centuries until it reached a major pivoting point in the nineteenth century. Historical events such as the Second World War, the Cold War, the emergence of McCarthyism, and the creation of a nuclear bomb left people with a heavily misanthropic view of the world. People started to question the practicality or realistic possibility of a utopian society, thus creating the genre of dystopian literature. (Gerhard, 2012) A dystopia is a society that could be characterized as a utopia gone wrong—a society that started with…show more content…
Among the many dystopian novels on said issue, this essay compares governmental control and its impact in Harrison Bergeron (1961) by Kurt Vonnegut and Fahrenheit 451(1951) by Ray Bradbury in the context of three criteria: equality, perception, and emotion. In terms of equality, in both Harrison Bergeron and Fahrenheit 451 there exists a strict societal emphasis on sameness. The 211th, 212th, 213th Amendments to the Constitution in the Harrison Bergeron universe ensures that people “weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” (Vonnegut, 1961, p.1) This is, as Mahdinay (2013) put it, a manmade and unnatural form of equality achieved and maintained via governmental force. Following similar ideals of artificial identicalness, in Fahrenheit 451 Captain Beatty explains that “we must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other, then they are all happy.” (Bradbury,…show more content…
In Harrison Bergeron, everyone is well aware of the fact that their intelligence, physical abilities, and beauty are being regulated by the government. No efforts of discretion are made by the government. Government-issued handicaps such as sashweights, bags of birdshot, and masks are bulky, unsophisticated, and impossible to overlook. Citizens also understand that those who receive mental handicap radios are smarter others, that the radios intentionally halt people’s thought processes, that behind the ugly masks there hide people of great beauty. This signifies that people weighed down by handicaps recognize that should they wish to establish themselves at the top of society’s hierarchy all they had to do was remove their handicaps, like Harrison. This would result in their intellectual and physical superiority to others—in other words they would gain the potential to rule the world. Nevertheless, despite their full realization of what is happening in their society, no one objects to the system of oppression. In fact, it is the heavily handicapped George, not Hazel, who points out the importance of the handicapping system. He says “If I tried to get away with it, then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?” (Vonnegut, 1961, p.2) This
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