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Unequality in Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Essay

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Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” Kurt Vonnegut portrays Aristotle’s philosophy brilliantly in his short story “Harrison Bergeron.” The story depicts the American government in the future mandating physical handicaps in an attempt to make everyone equal. Vonnegut describes a world where no one is allowed to excel in the areas of intelligence, athletics, or beauty. Yet, the inequalities among the people shine even brighter. Vonnegut uses satire to explore the question of whether true equality can ever really exist.
Satirical writing allows the author to express his or her opinion about a problem in society. A writing must follow three rules in order for it to be classified as satirical. First, a continuous focus on one’s subject’s faults. Secondly, instead of telling the reader directly, information must be given indirectly. Thirdly, the writing must have a variety of satirical techniques in general (Festa). With these simple guidelines, an author can demonstrate his beliefs of what he thinks needs to be changed in society.
“Harrison Bergeron” starts with explaining the society within the story. It begins, “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,” (Vonnegut 158). With this startlingly different introduction, Vonnegut explains that everyone is equal but does not include how during this time. As the story progresses, the reader begins to see exactly how the citizens are “equal.”
Vonnegut introduces the handicaps and explains how they work. He first mentions the ear piece which intelligent people wear. George “[is] required by law to wear it at all times,”...


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...ph. “An Overview of ‘Harrison Bergeron’.” Short Stories for Students. Vol. 5. 1999: The GaleGroup. Web. 10 March. 2014.

Wood, Karen and Charles. “The Vonnegut Effect: Science Fiction and Beyond.” The Vonnegut Statement. Vol. 5. 1937. 133-57. The GaleGroup. Web. 10 March. 2014.

Festa, Conrad. “Vonnegut’s Satire.” Vonnegut in America: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Kurt Vonnegut. Vol. 5. 1977. 133-50. The GaleGroup. Web. 10 March. 2014.

Labin, Linda. ”Harrison Bergeron.” Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition. 2004: 1-2. Literary Reference Center. Web. 12 March 2014.

Hattenhauer, Darryl. “The Politics of Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Harrison Bergeron’.” Studies in Short Fiction. 35-4. (1998): 387. EBSCOhost. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.

Mowery, Carl. “An Overview of ‘Harrison Bergeron’.” Short Stories for Students. 5. (1999): The GaleGroup. Web. 3 March. 2014.




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