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Describing the Dangers of Equality in Kurt Vonneguts Harrison

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Strickland Michael Strickland Dsadasl Asdjla Sdajsklda The Dangers of Equality in ?Harrison? Kurt Vonnegut?s ?Harrison? is one of the most praised and influential short stories of its time. The story describes an alternate reality, where the idea of equality among all is applied to every aspect of the individual. Equality is not just limited to equal access toward opportunities, but is extended to appearance, strength, poise, intellect and aptitude. It sounds ideal in theory; however, Vonnegut explores the dangers of equality which are taken too far and takes the reader to a world where individual potential has been succumbed to thought-distracting devices for the intelligent, masks for the beautiful, incapacitating weights for the strong. In ?Harrison,? Vonnegut uses the government-issued handicap devices and their implied functions for the characters in the story to illustrate his theme of dangers of egalitarianism and government control. The story opens and sets the scene in year 2081, the year when absolute equality among all was achieved through the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution and through the ?unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General? (Vonnegut 1). ...read more.


Another handicap used in the story is actual weights an individual must wear in the form of bags of birdshot or armor of strap metal. Each extra pound correlates to an additional physical advantage an individual bears such as strength or gracefulness. George is forced to wear a forty-seven pound bag of birdshot throughout his entire life, which remains padlocked to his neck. The idea of equality is interpreted too literally, to the point that it?s oppressive. It goes to the extent of punishing the individual and may even lead to being put in jail. Despite the fact the bags hurt him physically and wear his body down, George doesn?t remove the handicap because he would face two years in prison and two thousand dollar fine for every ball of birdshot taken out. The story also points out the ballerina and all of the weights she had to wear. She must have been the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers and for that matter all women, because, ?her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men? (1). Harrison was also put through many disadvantages because of his physical prowess. ...read more.


Vonnegut implies that individuality and individual liberties should never be sacrificed, not even for the supposed common good. The reader fears this level of government control and questions their motives in suppressing their knowledge and intelligence. After Harrison strips himself of his handicaps in the climax of the story, we see what true freedom looks like . Without the burdens of his handicaps and government control, ?not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and motion as well.? In conclusion, ?Harrison? uses handicaps as powerful symbols to express its theme of the dangers of egalitarianism and government control. The reader is left wondering if absolute equality is the best for the individuals in society or whether it has made a difference in the well-being of individuals. The beginning of the story even points out that despite the changes made in society, ?some things about living weren?t quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. This could be interpreted as even with all the equality among society, people will never be truly satisfied or happy. Vonnegut purposely leaves the reader with this internal battle, which contributes to the overall effectiveness of the story. ...read more.

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