I, as the oldest of three children, could tell you many stories of when things seemed unfair or unequal. I could also recount many examples of short stories, passages, or articles from school that showcased the ideal of inequality. Our most recent story, though, was unlike any other story I had witnessed or read in class. It was the short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and it described a utopia turned dystopia where a fight for equality has been taken too far. Equality can be viewed in many different ways. However, what is equal to one person will most likely not be the perfect idea of equality to everyone.
In trying to make the world a place of perfect equality, this “utopian society” had to sacrifice the pure essence of life, in that being the ideas of individualism and diversity. Vonnegut writes “Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.” This shows that, through the use of extensive “handicaps” (such as weights to make one weaker, or special hearing aids that emit painful noises to scramble the citizens thoughts), the so-called “utopian society” needed to eliminate any threat that might make one feel inferior to their counterparts, such as intelligence, physical appearance, or strength and ability. This does, however, take away what it truly means to be human, in that of being equipped with differences to make our personality type, ability and skills formated to fit best with who we are and who we want to be. This, one might believe, is the true meaning of diversity, in which Vonnegut illustrates is yet one more thing that had to be sacrificed in order to build this “perfect” society.
Diversity is among all of us, from that of religion, to that of nationality, and even our physical appearances, which Vonnegut also includes in his short story. He writes of how these diversities are take away in saying that “...[the ballerina’s] faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat dragged in.” This shows that as the family of Harrison Bergeron is watching television, the government still wants the viewers to not notice any sign of diversity and feel like they are less than capable. The quote demonstrates ideas that such powers given to the government can result in an abundance of unneeded protocols. This also proves that many problems could formulate from taking away ideas of individuality and diversity.
Much like in other writings, the precautions taken to make the world a better place can be taken too extensively ,causing rebellion and resistance toward their government. Consequences for disregarding the government’s laws in the story are also over exaggerated compared to what today's punishments would include. Harrison’s father George denys his wife’s wish for him to take off his handicaps, saying that he would have “two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine” for removing any piece of his handicaps. This extreme fine illustrates the government by today's normal standards, but the characters speak of these punishments as if this has been in effect for several years.
Equality can be viewed in many different ways. As Vonnegut writes, “Some things about life weren’t quite right, though,” symbolizing that not everyone’s opinion of equal is the same, though, proving one’s ideas of the meaning of equality will, for certain, vary from their peer's opinion of the matter. These subtle disagreements are what drives the story of Harrison Bergeron and illuminates the fact that though equality is an issue, there are ways of tackling this issue in a rational manner.