Uniformity and Deformity in Harrison Bergeron

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Uniformity and Deformity in Harrison Bergeron

In this essay, I will attempt to explore what Kurt Vonnegut illustrated in his short story "Harrison Bergeron"--the fact that uniformity (of any kind) leads to the loss of individuality, and therefore to absolute deformity of humanness.

"The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal," the story begins. "They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal in every which way." (Vonnegut 1968:7) In this haunting story, Vonnegut probably wanted to warn our society of similar kind of equality, equality that can be fatal for human race.

The theme of absolute equality has already appeared two years before "Harrison Bergeron" was published for the first time in Fantasy and Science-Fiction Magazine (1961). It was Vonnegut's novel The Sirens of Titan. However, in this work the theme is only a minor feature and is not really developed (see Vonnegut 1975:158). The idea probably intrigued Kurt Vonnegut and forced him to develop it into a short story. Those who are familiar with Kurt Vonnegut's writing will certainly recognize some other themes of this story. For example the fear of de-humanization of human beings, being stuck in amber (Harrisons inability to overthrow the system) and so forth.

In "Harrison Bergeron", Kurt Vonnegut presented a scary view of a future society, where everyone was equal. "Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else." (Vonnegut 1988:7). It was the job of the agents of the United States Handicapper General to keep it this way. Beautiful people had to wear u...

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...g speciesism, we can end up like in the short story by Kilgore Trout "Hail to the Chief", where a chimpanzee became the President of the United States.

"The chimpanzee wore a little blue blazer with brass

buttons, and with the seal of the President of the United

States sewed to the breast pocket.

Everywhere he went, bands would play 'Hail to the Chief.'

The chimpanzee loved it. He would bounce up and down."

(Vonnegut 1992:88)


Sturgeon, Theodore Godbody New York:

Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. Breakfast of Champions London: 1992; Cox & Wyman Ltd.

Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater New York: 1978; Dell Publishing

Vonnegut, Kurt Jr.The Sirens of Titan London: 1975; Coronet Books

Vonnegut, Kurt Jr.Welcome to the Monkey House New York: 1988; Bantam Doubleday, Dell Publishing

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