A world where everyone is equally beautiful, intelligent, and strong is an ideal world that everyone fantasizes about and strives for. In this world, not only would no one have to worry about being judged by their physical appearance or intelligence, but everyone would equal. In the short story“ Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, America’s future is looking magnificent: everyone is equal, and no one has to worry about how they physically appear to others or how smart they may be. The “above average” people are required by law to wear “handicaps” that essentially make their above average traits more prominent. Smart people are required to wear hearing devices that essentially blasts ear deafening sounds into their ears every 20 seconds to prevent them from thinking. Beautiful people have to wear mask in order to hide their beauty.
In a world like this, citizens are basically tortured. This is very similarly to a communist society in a sense that the story shares traits such as citizens being tortured for disagreement with the government. The story was written during the “Red Scare”, 1961 because of this, a theme of communism is shown within the story, communism is defined as “A society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.” (Dictionary.com). Communism is seen at its extreme when people, their abilities and their freedom are taken from them. The story also shows an oppressive government not allowing its citizens to think freely with the use of handicaps. A handicap is supposed to make above average traits appear less prominent, however, the way that it is portrayed in the story, these handicaps only make the above average traits appear more prominent because characters in the story would realistically stand out more with these handicaps.
For example, the story states Harrison had to wear a clown nose and ugly mask, a typical person who saw this would understand that Harrison must be a good looking male because the government found a need to have to censor how he looked. In this scenario, the handicap that Harrison is put in turns into an advantage. A female would more likely go after a male wearing an uglier mask because it is a symbol that he must be really good looking if the government found it necessary to put an extraordinarily ugly mask on them. This also works vice versa, if a girl is wearing an extremely ugly mask, then she must be really beautiful, males would more likely chase after a women who has an uglier mask. This America that Harrison lives in is very similar to what a communist society is like because of the way characters act. In a communist society, people cannot freely speak, anything that is deemed to be offensive against the government essentially means certain death for the person who mouthed those offensive words. The government is believed to always be right and everything they do is an order that must be followed, even if it means suicide.
There have been many people who have gone against the orders of the government and spoke against the government only to meet death. People who revolt against the government or learn too much about the outside world and decide to leave are punished. In the story a young man named Harrison Bergeron previously was imprisoned for being too smart and too good looking, this relates to how a communist society would treat their citizens. In the America that the story takes place in, being too good looking and too smart creates an imbalance which in turn may affect government operations. In a communist society if anyone is deemed a threat to the government or creates an imbalance in society, they are executed. Harrison escapes prison, as soon as he escapes a public warning is broadcasted onto every TV with Harrison’s face on it. Harrison’s father, George, recognizes that Harrison was the person who has escaped from prison, however, as soon as he recognizes this he is blasted by a dreadful sound into his ear causing him to forgot his train of thought. This is done so that anyone who is smart enough to even think of revolting against the government would not be able to do it because they cannot physically keep their train of thought. As soon as George forgets his train of thought, the author puts the Harrison back into the spotlight. The reader is introduced to a scene where Harrison takes off and runs into a studio where a live broadcast of a dance was occurring to shout, “I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.” (Page 4). Harrison has multiple handicaps on him which means he must be a bit more than just above average.
Harrison removes his handicap harness that could hold five thousand pounds and smashes his ear piece, breaks his head harness and spectacles. Once Harrison removes these handicaps he can finally do things that he could never have done before. Similarly the citizens of communist societies can become what they can instead of what the government says they can become if they were to also revolt against their government and take off their form of “handicaps” of restricted speech and 24/7 monitoring through their tapped phones and surveillance cameras everywhere. In the story, Harrison not only screams that he is the emperor, but he also screams that he is going to pick his empress by picking whoever dares to raise their feet first which is himself declaring a revolt against the government. It’s amazing that a girl actually put her foot out knowing full well that the consequences of associating herself with a criminal could be fatal. Many communist societies where some citizens would create uproar and start a revolt. After picking his empress, he snaps her handicaps as well as snapping the musician’s handicaps in order for them to play better. While all of this was happening, it was being broadcasted live on television where everyone at home could see. Shortly after the music began, both the emperor and empress start dancing, they dance to the point where the laws of gravity no longer defined them and they started floating. As they floated in the air, they started kissing, for a very long time. It was then that the handicapper general, Diana Moon Glampers, comes into the studio and shoots them both to death on live tv. People at home saw everything, Harrison’s parents were included in the crowd that saw what had happened. Harrison’s mother started crying and when asked why by George, she replied she didn’t know why . This is due to the brain numbing from the government. Communist societies are very similar in this aspect of brainwashing and even turning family against each other.
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