W. H. Auden's poem entitled "The Unknown Citizen" and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s short story entitled "Harrison Bergeron" is a portrayal of a conflict between individualism and government control. Auden's "The Unknown Citizen" is a government's view of the perfect modern man in an unrealistic society. Similarly, Vonnegut presents in "Harrison Bergeron" a scary and destructive view of the United States government in the future where all citizens are uniform. In both "The Unknown Citizen" and "Harrison Bergeron" the government has manipulated human intelligence to the point that the government ultimately has total control over everyone's lives and minds. The motive behind the portrayal of an equal society is that it will eliminate hatred, envy and war. While this does prove true, the numerous side effects such as loss of identity, lack of originality, and loss of personal feelings begin to arise. The attempt to create an equal society to the extreme makes the United States government more like a dictatorship or communist system rather than a democracy. The satiric society depicted in "The Unknown Citizen" and "Harrison Bergeron" is the authors' attempt to mock a political system that tends to depersonalize its citizens and constantly strives to create equality. Auden and Vonnegut prove that the government is too controlling and as a result our individuality is lost.
The people of the society portrayed in the stories take the notion of perfection and equality to the extreme. In "The Unknown Citizen", the Auden uses sarcasm to express an obsessive and mindless state that only know its citizens by numbers and letters, and evaluates their worth with statisti...
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...f the communist party. The ways of life of these citizens is very much like the one described in "The Unknown Citizen" and "Harrison Bergeron". This is probably what Auden and Vonnegut want to warn about by mocking the political system that existed now. The democracy system of the United States is sometimes depriving its citizens of individuality. If it continue to strive toward equality the society, much like that described in "The Unknown Citizen" and "Harrison Bergeron" will prevail and this could lead to the deformity of humanness.
Auden, W.H. "The Unknown Citizen." Reading and Writing from Literature. 2nd ed. Ed.
John E. Schwiebert. Boston: Houghton, 2001. 627
Vonnegut, Jr. Kurt. "Harrison Bergeron." Reading and Writing from Literature. 2nd ed. Ed.
John E. Schwiebert. Boston: Houghton, 2001. 575-78
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