Monday, May 23, 2016

Response to Harrison Bergeron

The story of Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is one that takes place in 2081 where everyone has now been made equal. All citizens of this futuristic America are equal in every way possible through things known as handicaps. No one is greater than another in physical or mental capability. This equality was instated by the 211th to 213th amendment and overseen by the Handicapper General.
            Vonnegut creates his society with extreme collectivism as its base where equality is in every aspect of living. No person that lives in America in 2081 is different from one another they all live under the same limitations through the use of handicaps. These handicaps are a pretty radical idea because they cannot be taken off or it would be considered treason. However, it is a unique idea that is not seen in any other dystopian works. I believe Vonnegut was going for the same concept of conditioning as many authors do with their dystopias but just with a different idea to show the versatility that can be found in a dystopia.
            Though there is some uniqueness found in Vonnegut’s story, there are many similarities found between Harrison Bergeron and others. Just like Ayn Rands Anthem the society is based off of extreme collectivism where there is no room for individuality and everyone is subjected to the ruling of the government. Also the citizens are all conditioned to live a certain way so that there would be no individual thinking. However, I do not believe Vonnegut went for the same goal as Ayn Rand in showing the imperfections of collectivism rather the overwhelming power of collectivism in shutting down the individual. The rebellious individual in Harrison Bergeron was subdued swiftly by the government while in Ayn Rand the individual escaped society but what happens to him is unknown. Other similarities that Vonnegut has with other authors is the endings where the individual loses such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. As stated before I believe that the ending chosen by Vonnegut showed how powerful a collectivist government is in crushing the individual.
            Although the government is definitely powerful enough to subdue an individual there is no guarantee for them in stopping a person from thinking for themselves as much as they condition them not to. Even with his handicap and the threat of death for his rebellion, Harrison Bergeron removed his own handicaps showing that it is possible to overthrow oppression. However he did not have a strong following so it was easily stopped by the Handicapper General. I believe Vonnegut used this to show that even if a person was able to somehow think radically for themselves and rebel against the government, it is pointless if not enough support them in their cause. Harrison Bergeron would have to break down the handicaps that are mentally implanted into people not just the physical handicap. This just shows how complex it is to change a dystopia without changing all the people who are within it. Unlike how Ayn Rand believes the rational individual is the best it seems that the collectivist government truly knows what is best and how to keep it that way.
            However, there might also be another point that Vonnegut is making but it is very subtle. Possibly he is trying to show that there is nothing wrong with a collectivist society and it only seems wrong through our eyes. There is no indication that there is any real problem other than that there is rebellious individuals that are easily suppressed. Quite frankly the only problem being displayed here is the individual itself because they cannot conform. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence that shows this point being made except through a readers interpretation. 

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