Postmodern Motire In Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron

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ABSTRACT: Kurt Vonnegut is arguably the finest black humourist and postmodern writer of contemporary times. Vonnegut primarily used the genre of science fiction, nevertheless his works portray the gravity of contemporary issues and have close parallels with the current socio-economic and political milieu of America. Vonnegut wrote fourteen novels, three short story collections, five plays and five works of non-fiction. Although he primarily received acclaim for his novels, yet most of his short stories are written in the same strain. Two short stories: “Harrison Bergeron” and “2 B R 0 2 B” will be analyzed in this paper. In “Harrison Bergeron” he delineates how the coercive administrative forces confiscate the individuality of the subjects…show more content…
ARTICLE: Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) has been regarded by many critics as a postmodern writer par excellence. Vonnegut uses numerous postmodern techniques including metafiction and pastiche and he cannily incorporates them to underpin the morbidity of numerous notions and situations which he explicates in his works. His satire is directed towards contemporary world at large and America in particular--its society, politics and the important events that have formed the backdrop of its history and played an important role in placing America at the helm of almost all affairs in the world.
Vonnegut was an American writer and his experiences as an indigenous citizen living in the twentieth century America profoundly shaped his works. He astutely conveys through his essay collection A Man Without a
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“Harrison Bergeron” (1961) was written during the time when Civil Rights Movement was at its peak in America i.e. the 1960s. The story can be read as Vonnegut’s response to this movement. It depicts a future society in which so-called egalitarianism prevails but at the cost of individualism:
The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They 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 everybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th and 213th amendments of the constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General. (1)
“Unceasing vigilance of agents” is a satire on government for transgressing its control over the citizens. It turns out to be a society in which the government curbs the individuality of citizens under the façade of ensuring equality. Stanley Schatt states: In any leveling process, what really is lost, according to Vonnegut, is beauty, grace, and wisdom.
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