Kurt Vonnegut presents rather interesting scenarios in his strory Harrison Bergeron

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No, such a thing is not possible in today's world. Kurt Vonnegut's book 'Harrison Bergeron features several fascinating scenarios (1961). The scenarios are presented to show a regime that invented a mechanism to manipulate the subconscious, which is achieved by equipment mounted in the ears known as the mental handicap radio. The handicap radio was connected to a government antenna, which would send a loud noise to the radio, disrupting a person's line of thought. The government had amended the Constitution requiring everyone whose intelligence was above normal to wear the handicap radio, and if anyone violated this rule, he/she was as was the case of Harrison Bergeron. The rules were meant to make sure that everyone was equal. They extended to physical attributes of individuals. If someone was considered to be beautiful, she was required by law to wear a hideous mask. In this case, Vonnegut uses the scenarios of the ballerinas. If someone was considered to have more strength, the law required him or her to be fitted with weights around their necks. Harrison Bergeron, being stronger and more intelligent, was fitted with a handicap radio the size of huge earphones. To counter his strength, he was fitted with more weights, according to Vonnegut. Harrison was carrying scrap metals of all kinds and looked like a walking junkyard. Vonnegut story is more of fantasy or myths. Such a scenario would not happen in the current world. In a world where activists exist to protest even maltreatment of animals means that any government that would try to make people equal in the way Vonnegut exhibits in his story would face an opposition that it could not win.

What Vonnegut Is Warning Us about

Equality is an elusive thing to achieve among human beings, but this is not to say that it is not achievable. In Vonnegut's story, the government is able to make people equal, but at the end, it is punishing them by making their lives miserable. Harrison Bergeron's punishment was to become a walking junkyard. The ballerinas are meant to offer grace and beauty in their dance. Instead, their beauty is hidden under hideous masks, and the glory the dance is supposed to give is not felt. Vonnegut does not provide how the technology works to interrupt people's line of thought or emotions, but it is a warning that if technology advances without proper controls and scrutiny by the people, it can be used against them in future.

How the Year in Which It Was Written Impact the Story

The book is based in the year 2081, a couple of years into the future. Its impact is to show how unregulated government policies can have serious effects on the citizens. It might not be in the same way Vonnegut puts it, but might happen in other ways.

The Road to Serfdom

Stossel starts his video chained up in a bid to show how government policies have turned people to slaves. This is through politicians making irrational decisions, which as he puts it, consist of taking advantage of the citizens. He considers himself to be like Harrison Bergeron who protested the absurdities they were being forced to live in. Just like Harrison Bergeron, he is protesting the policies that the government is adopting (Stossel, 2014).

The Areas Where Forced Equality Is Played out

Forced equality played out in intelligence, emotions, beauty, physique, talent, and voice.


Stossel, J. (2014, February 10). The Road to Serfdom [Video File]. Retrieved on July 24, 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT0MqaWbwjo

Vonnegut, K. Jr. (1961). Harrison Bergeron. Retrieved on July 24, 2017 from https://archive.org/stream/HarrisonBergeron/Harrison%20Bergeron_djvu.txt

October 13, 2022

Life Science Sociology

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