Kurt Vonnegut's Short Stories

9. What do you consider to be the message of Harrison Bergeron (there are multiple)? What leads you to this understanding of the text?

“Harrison Bergeron” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Reading Questions

Harrison Bergeron: Completely Equal

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One of the themes prevalent here is the advancement of science and technology. While the story does not attack technology in the broad sense, it does suggest the absurdity of allowing technology to progress too far without human oversight.

Consider the absurdity of the handicapping devices. The method of mental handicapping to which George Bergeron must submit, a "little mental handicap radio in his ear," is an example of a futuristic gadget (7). Likewise, his son Harrison must wear huge earphones and special spectacles to handicap his vision and give him headaches. In contrast to the advanced gadgetry used to mentally handicap George and Harrison, the government's mandated physical handicaps are quite simple: canvas bags of lead balls to handicap physical ability and masks to offset attractiveness. In the end, the story is a dystopia where the state uses technology to control its population.