The Effect of True Equality(midterm)

The Effect of True Equality

According to the Declaration of Independence, every person in the United States has certain rights that cannot be taken away from them. Equality today means fighting for those rights for every single person, no matter what skin tone or gender. However, America does not have a truly equal society in every aspect, like how society is depicted in Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.” People are equally smart and equally talented in Vonnegut’s story. By having equality intellectually, the society Vonnegut pictures stays at a standstill. In this story, Harrison Bergeron was the son of a couple, George and Hazel, who escapes from jail and rebels against the society, which eventually leads to his demise. “Harrison Bergeron,” originally published in October 1961, is allegorical by addressing controversial concepts at the time it was written. Vonnegut alludes to the loss of identity and uniformity in communism during the Cold War. Overall, Vonnegut clearly shows how true and full equality stifles change and therefore impedes progress.

The handicaps in “Harrison Bergeron” are the barriers that society places on the population which Vonnegut uses as motifs. Ear radios that stop thought, or weights around people’s necks or masks people would have to wear to disguise their beauty are among the variety of impediments that make people equal. The ear radios would blast disrupting sounds into the ears of anyone who was smarter than “average” (Vonnegut 1), or the least intelligent person. Ballerinas wore bags of birdshot, or lead, and sash weights so the ballerinas could not dance exceptionally, but simply as well as the normal person. Therefore, the entire general population had no more intellect than the least astute, no more grace than the least grateful, and no more beauty than the least beautiful. The handicaps also halt the future possibility of the government or society evolving. For example, when George and Hazel, Harrison Bergeron’s parents, were watching television, George started thinking that maybe the dancers on the television should not have any handicaps, “but he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts” (Vonnegut 1). As soon as George conceived a malignant thought about how their society was run, the ear radio put an end to it. George could not elaborate on his idea why their society was corrupt, so George could not fight to end the corruption.

The effect of the handicaps as well as other factors cause stagnancy, which Vonnegut highlights be using repetition. When George and Hazel first start watching television with each other, “there were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about” (Vonnegut 1). At the closing of the story, after witnessing the death of her son, Hazel once again has tears in her eyes but she does not remember why. Then George and Hazel sit down once again to watch the television. The beginning and end of Vonnegut’s story are almost identical, making the plot of the story seem close to irrelevant. The society that George and Hazel live in allows for no change, so no improvements can be made. The resolution of “Harrison Bergeron is also ironic, since George and Hazel do not grieve for their murdered son as expected, but instead are distracted and manipulated.

What Hazel watches on the television that she forgets, is Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, shooting Harrison Bergeron and the ballerina he was dancing with. Vonnegut incorporates symbolism into Diana’s character to further create his message. When Harrison breaks free from his handicaps, he literally and figuratively breaks free from his imprisonment. When Diana shoots the gun, not only does she end Harrison and the ballerina’s lives, but she also puts an end to Harrison’s liberty and the change he brought. Diana herself is also a symbol for the society. She does not act out of her own individual thoughts because she does not have the capability to think in such complication, but instead she acts for society. She kills Harrison because that is what needs to be done to maintain the way of life. There is also irony when Diana kills Harrison. Just before Diana steps in, Harrison was claiming to be “the Emperor” (Vonnegut 4) and ordered everyone to “do what I say at once” (Vonnegut 4). Shortly after, Harrison falls, showing how he was not really an emperor at all, just someone who revolted against the extreme egalitarian society.

Through motifs, repetition, irony and symbolism, Vonnegut shows how in a completely fair society, change and evolution can never happen. The society in “Harrison Bergeron” is reminiscent of the society in today’s world as well. Society’s pressures to be the ideal can be mental handicaps. Here is where Vonnegut’s message can be positive. If conformity stops change, then individualism can foster improvement. The strengths and weaknesses of every single person contribute to a greater world and a stronger society if people are allowed to be themselves.


This I Believe

I Believe in New York City

I believe in New York City. I revel in the bright lights and the skyscrapers and the noises. Especially the noises. All the sounds of the cars zooming by or the honking during traffic or the sounds of all kinds of people talking all different languages and about all different subjects. New York City is fast-paced, never-ending and always changing. It’s the place where people go to find themselves, or maybe lose themselves too.

I believe in the feeling I get whenever I go to New York. The feeling of invincibility and wonder. The feeling that anything in the world can be done, because it can. New York reminds me that there is something more than what is in my little town of Westerly. New York gives me something to aspire to, something to hope for.

Most of all, I believe in the people inside of New York. I believe that anyone, of any religion, culture, or demographic can go to New York and be accepted. I believe that New York and the people inside of it are accepting. Growing up Asian American in a predominantly white town, I was always aware of how different I was compared to my classmates. At the time, assimilation to my classmates meant banishing my culture, my language, and religion. Instead of speaking Chinese at home, I would answer my parents in English. I would be embarrassed to have my mom and dad come to school functions and to this day, I am always aware of the accents my parents have when they speak English. Now that I’m older, I’ve become more interested in my language but the distance I’ve created between myself and my culture has turned into something of a chasm.

My fears of nonconforming have stayed with me as well, although in a more subdued fashion. But my fears have also shaped what I believe in. I believe in New York City with all its different kinds of people because I believe that one day I can accept myself too. There are 8,550,405 people living in the city today. 8,550,405 distinct people all with hopes, fears, and aspirations just like me. Because everyone in New York is unique, everyone is also the same. In the city, you could do anything. Being different is celebrated rather than ridiculed, so I feel a sense of freedom in the way I dress or act. I can truly allow myself to express my creativity there.

New York is everything that I want to become. I believe in New York because it is my future. I want to experience the bright lights and skyscrapers and noises. I want to build my career and start my family in the city that never sleeps. There is a sense of uncertainty that comes with New York too. Since anything can happen, the future is always uncertain. I don’t know what will happen in the future. But I hope to go to New York and maybe I’ll find myself there if I haven’t already. Or I could lose myself too.