Kurt Vonnegut's Short Stories

Parallels with The Sirens of Titan

A similar dystopian society to that of "Harrison Bergeron" appears in Vonnegut's 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan. When the Space Wanderer returns to earth he finds a society in which handicaps are used to make all people equal, eradicating the supposedly ruinous effects of blind luck on human society. The narrator claims that now "the weakest and the meekest were bound to admit, at last, that the race of life was fair".

The strong are burdened with "handicaps" (consisting of "bags of lead shot" hung from various parts of the body) and the beautiful hide their advantageous appearance through "frumpish clothes, bad posture, chewing gum and a ghoulish use of cosmetics". Unlike in "Harrison Bergeron", the citizens in The Sirens of Titan choose to wear these handicaps voluntarily as an act of faith towards the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, although it is suggested that not to do so would invite social condemnation. There are no handicaps for above-average intelligence mentioned in The Sirens of Titan. The society of Harrison Bergeron addresses differences in intellectual and cognitive ability and their entailing advantages.


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