Totalitarianism In Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron

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“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be,” Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once said. Considering his work, Harrison Bergeron, that seems to be true, a world that worries about equality, generally a good thing, but leads to totalitarianism. Vonnegut criticizes a political issue, the involvement of the state in the lives of individuals and the challenges of changing modern society we face. The author uses his short story to teach a lesson, but a lesson the reader has to conclude for himself. Vonnegut clearly shows the intention of educating his reader, giving him a chance to draw his own conclusion instead of presenting him with a preconceived solution. Although he seems to imply that every political system can conclude…show more content…
The weights are a symbol of suppression, the government claiming to bring equality, is literally using weights to pull down those that could endanger the system. Although the weights as a handicap device are a curious choice, because they bring a side effect that the government obviously did not anticipate. Lifting weights is a recipe for getting stronger, Harrison for example has struggled against the weights so long that he turned out exceptionally strong, hence the government has helped creating a potential nemesis. But also it seems an appeal that people, unlike George Bergeron who simply accepts his fate, need to rise up and not let themselves be weighed down by anything or…show more content…
Harrison Bergeron wears “a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses, (intended) to make him not only half blind, but (giving) him whanging headaches” and he carries weights of “three hundred pounds”. He has “a red rubber ball for a nose (and has to keep) his eyebrows shaved off, and (to) cover his even white teeth with black caps”. And still he fights. Harrison Bergeron is a symbol for defiance and individuality. What makes him heroic is that he is willing to show his true potential even at the risk of punishment, or even death. His courage is an immense contrast to his father, who only suffers his handicap, showing that people need to live up to their potential and be brave to change the world. Looking away and adapting to wrong actions is not acceptable. In Contrast Harrison storms in saying he is “the emperor, (…) the greatest ruler who has ever lived” and “everybody must do what (he says)”, he sounds power-mad, perhaps even insane. Vonnegut says that individuals need to fight only to make his hero a power-hungry godlike creature, being both an unreachable ideal and unreliable threat. Vonnegut is implying that individuals are powerful but that does not mean every individual deserves to have power. Accordingly nothing can change unless individuals force it, but that individuals too often lack courage and strength, even if one individual has everything needed, he might be corrupted when
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