“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal.” This breathtakingly simple line comes from the beginning of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” The story is about the equalizing of the world. Transforming a place of unique faces and body types, of intelligence and ignorance, into a world where everyone is finally the same.
Strong people are “burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot,” beautifully people are given hideous masks, and smart people have “a little mental handicap radio” that sends blasts of uncomfortable sound through your mind when you think.
Is this what we desire? Is a life of equality not a burden? Are we not made different for a reason? Vonnegut’s tale of equality explains why.
Harrison is both smart and strong – he is a god. When he breaks free from his chains, his immediate thought is to promote inequality. He unmasks a beautiful dancer and allows musicians to create stunning melodies.
Harrison exposes the beauty in being different. He is frightening because he is brave. In order to have equality, the government must suppress anything unique. Harrison is seen as a tyrant, manic because he is powerful.
Instead of enhancing the quality of people, they are dumbed down. Thought and beauty is no longer valued. Society has turned and created zombies – nowhere to go but down.
Vonnegut’s story is thought provoking. Written in 1961, the story still has incredible relevance. If you are looking for a short, interesting read, click here.