Totalitarian Regime in Harrison Bergeron, a Short Story Written by Kurt Vonnegut

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Oppression and fear are essentially always present to some extent in a totalitarian regime as shown in the story, “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. The people’s freedom is bound by the objects that they are obligated to wear under the rule of their government. Such objects are used to restrict the people “from taking unfair advantages of their brains” and also to create the pathway to what is considered an equal world, Within Vonnegut’s story the theme of equality is extremely emphasized, an example being when the narrator states “,..everybody was finally equal. They weren‘t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way” This suggests that the regime was able to achieve equality beyond what would be considered natural, they expanded on the idea of the equality given by God. An example is when Hazel refers to the announcer who had his thoughts interrupted saying “He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him”.

The government has made the features bestowed by God to humankind seem like the true handicaps. Paradoxically, the General dominates over everyone else and ultimately excludes herself from “everybody”, Vonnegut exhibits the mindset of an individual to display the omnipotence of the government over different groups of people within a dystopic community over a period of time. Harrison in Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” depicts a character that is similar to a revolutionist, He is a young adolescent that possesses superhuman qualities, but he lacks the support of the mass. He is a rare character that carries no fear, opposes the regime and tears “the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper” that was “guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.” Harrison removes all the “three hundred pounds” of handicap that deemed him an object of the government Harrison’s power seems limitless for it mirrors the level of a god’s.

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His defiance becomes the symbol for the freedom of an individual for Harrison removes all the devices that constraints and bounds his mind and body Despite his momentary victory through the dance with the ballerina, in which the duet envelopes “in an explosion ofjoy and grace”, Harrison was shot and killed in only a matter of minutes upon the arrival of the Handicapper General. Harrison‘s few minutes of happiness exposes the short time frame of liberty that an extraordinary human is able to grasp. The General simply “fired twice” and “the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.” Harrison was easily taken care of without much effort by the General even with the title of “Emperor” and extensive abilities. Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers revealed that rebels who attempt to have control over their own minds will be faced with death. There is little to way in leading a rebellion because the Handicapper has the ability to take down a power that “would have awed Thor”t People living under living under a tyrannical leadership never fail to think of a way to escape from their daily life.

The ballerina becomes the first person to portray this for she arose when Harrison calls for a person to be his empressi The musicians on the television in Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” illustrate the typical characters who wishes to break free from the regime but is confined by dread; they are the followers in society and will only move once a leader or comes forward. The catalyst for the musicians’ change was Harrison, he tells them to do their best at playing music and will reward them by making them into “barons and dukes and earls” They had begun to play “cheap, silly, false music.” and this was due to their terror of the current authorities. The musicians have conformed to the current society and are uncomfortable when they have face with the possibility of a new ruler, Harrison then acts as low as the government, he waves “them like batons“ and “slammed them back into their chairs” causing the musicians to be afraid of him more than the Handicapper.

General in that moment They remain as Harrison’s followers for awhile until the Diana Glampers gets rid of Harrison and “aimed it [the gun] at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on (Vonnegut 5)”i The musician quickly change sides again and put their handicaps back on because once their driving force is shot down then they lose hope and the possibility of death overtakes them The majority of society that lives under despotism will always obey the highest power to minimize their endeavors and maximize their chances of survival, A person whose rights are constantly being restrained and abused over a long period of time will eventually become accustomed to the conditions in which they must live in An example of this is delineated by George in Vonnegut‘s “Harrison Bergeron” through his conversations with his wife, Hazelt Hazel had tried to convince George to remove some of the bird shots in the bag that was locked around his neck but he concluded that “It’s just a part of me.

Both George and Hazel are subjects of satire; they cannot fathom the idea of a better life, George has become accustomed to carrying the burden of the handicaps knowing that it’ll only be worse for him if he tried to get rid of them. The imposition of the handicaps by the government allows them to mind control George and has made him believe that if “everybody [is] competing against everybody else” the it would be considered the “dark ages again. It seems logical that if George was freed of his handicaps then he would think differently because he is highly intelligent but the government’s control is indomitable. George is an individual who has become brain-washed and no longer seeks for a way to free himself from the regime. George has thrown away all his emotions, he quickly forgets his son‘s death that was publicized on television and asks his wife apathetically ”what [is it] about” that she had cried for.

George’s dehumanization and machine-like attributes paints a picture of the result that a totalitarian government wishes for and usually achieves. A human is nothing but a puppet without the control of their mind; It is in many cases that a despotic regime that fosters these beings through forceful and inhumane means. The government in “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut serves as an exemplary model because they corruptly abuse human rights to create a society that is perfect and equal. People like George are oblige “ to wear it [handicap] at all times (Vonnegut 1)” and the equality was a result of the work of the administration officials by enforcing such laws. The people of the community have no say and if they do, then they would be punished in the same fashion as Harrison was.

The end of the story with Hazel stating “ I could tell that one was a doozy” about George‘s handicap displays that Vonnegut has blocked the smallest hope for freedom of the people, it mimics the beginning of the story when George and Hazel are watching television and Hazel cries but “she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about (Vonnegut 1)”t This hints that the commotion of Harrison had no effect on their lives, they have returned back to square one. The people are similar to abused children who has suffered too much to be saved. The children has come to accept their abuse and due to overbearing fear, they are less inclined to speak up. Once they find hope, and that hope fails them, then in due time they will give up on the idea of being free Likewise, the majority of society becomes like the children, like George; Vonnegut indicates by the ending of “Harrison Bergeron” that the abuser has won, the government continues to reign.

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Totalitarian Regime in Harrison Bergeron, a Short Story Written by Kurt Vonnegut. (2023, Apr 15). Retrieved from

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