The Danger and Pointlessness of Total Equality
In the story “Harrison Bergeron”, author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. described a sort of dystopia where everyone is “equal”. There was a government that made it it’s duty to force equality upon every citizen in the form of handicaps. There were handicaps that were instilled upon a person if they were more beautiful, strong, intelligent, and talented than the “average” individual. These hinderences were dangerous, torturous, and discouraged any type of possible individualism of the people.
This new government of the year 2081 prioritized in making everyone as equal as the next person. Although it seems as though these handicaps achieved the goal of this new government, it also worked against itself. For example, by placing an ugly mask on an attractive man or woman, it made it more obvious that there were some citizens that were truly more superior in looks than others. Further examples include the “sashweights and bags of birdshot” (Vonnegut 217) for the strong and graceful, and the distracting loud noises transmitted through the handicap radios in the ears of the intelligent citizens. The sounds that came through these radios were unbearable. “It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples” (Vonnegut 217). What was the point of watching ungraceful ballerinas who were constantly falling to the ground? Not only did these handicaps work against itself but they also tormented and extremely crippled the citizens.
To achieve equality, the government had more creative methods up their sleeves. All announcers that were hired had to have speech impediments. The speech impediments of these announcers were so extreme that it actually was difficult to understand them. “The announcer tried to say ‘Ladies and gentlemen–‘ He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read” (Vonnegut 218). Even as the ballerina started announcing Harrison Begeron’s escape from jail, she had to change her voice to make it more “fair”. “And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous timeless melody. ‘Excuse me–‘ she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetittive” (Vonnegut 218). It’s safe to say that if the people did not handicap themselves, the government will create handicaps for them.
The dangers of achieving total equality is shown towards the end when Harrison broke into the studio and appeared on the televisons of many. A rebellious Harrison who was seven feet tall extremely strong, a genius, and an athlete tore the straps off his handicap harnesses “like wet tissue paper” (219), removed his rubber-ball nose which “revealed a man that would have awed Thor, god of thunder”. As he was dancing and jumping around with his Empress, a woman by the name of Diana Moon Galmpers walked in the studio with a double-barreled ten-guage shot gun. She was the Handicapper General and since Harrison and his Empress were being defiant, they were instantly shot and killed. Those who refused to follow suit with the government’s goals were described as “dangerous” and therefore immediately punished.
This 2081 dystopia of total equality is very much flawed. It greatly inhibits the freedom of the citizens along with constant torment for those who display any type of special ability or attribute. The resulting society consists entirely of, slow, unintelligent, unnattractive, “average” people. This goal of achieving total equality completely removes any and every aspect of individuality which is not only dangerous and pointless, but a burden to the society.