In the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut I perceive the theme to be the importance of individuality, and a need for individual difference for fear of losing our humanity when nowadays equality for all is an issue. In many aspects, equality must be striven for. People have always been different and will always tend to remain that way. Individualism is a doctrine and marks the differences between people recognizing the value of diversity in modern society.
“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal in every which way.” The preceding sentence begins Kurt Vonnegut’s very scary view of a future society where everybody was equal. Nobody could be more intelligent than anybody else. Nobody could be stronger, prettier or faster than anybody else.
The Amendments to the Constitution and the agents of the United States Handicapper General would make sure it was kept that way. People will have to wear handicaps to modify their intelligence or appearances. If they are beautiful they will wear ugly masks. If their intelligence was above normal, like George Bergeron, they will wear a radio on their ear tuned to a Government transmitter. The transmitter will send out noises that will scattered their thoughts and will keep them from taking advantage of their brains. If they were not heavy enough they had to wear handicap bags full of birdshot, and this is the case of the ballerinas.
They were required by law to wear them at all times.
The kind of society presented in this story where everybody is equal and there is no competition, can be loosely related to the society we are living in today. In today’s society we demand equality in sexes, equality in races, equality in ages and equality in genders. We are more conscious about the differences in our society and we try to change the norms, the rules and those inequalities that may give some people certain status. In “Harrison Bergeron”, everyone is equal; everybody has the same opportunities to do what they want. In that society there is no dominance in any groups or races, no social injustice nor economical inequality.
To get to this point of equality, the members of this society with physical or mental advantages have to wear these painful handicaps to modify their thoughts and emotions or transform their beauty. The results of all this is a loss of identity, and overall a loss of humanity.
The society in “Harrison Bergeron” can also be related to some political regimes in the world, like the communist or fascist systems. Unfortunately, we know how these dictators, from the right or left, work. They make sure people don’t have thoughts or their own opinions so they are easier to manipulate. In “Harrison Bergeron” the Government manipulates the human intelligence to the point where those with advantages become disadvantages.
The importance of equality in this story and the dangers of someone not being equal will represent a threat to the system. When Harrison takes his own handicaps off as well as his Empress to enjoy the dance, and tells the musicians to do the same for the music to improve, the Handicapper General (Diana Moon Glampers), kills the couple because they represented the threat to the system and the society. Everything returns to normal after that, including George and Hazel, his parents. They were not allowed to think, the handicap signal would take care of that.
In my opinion the author, Kurt Vonnegut tries to warn us about the dangers of equality and uniformity. We can lose our humanity and individuality if we strive for too much equality and become a society like that presented in “Harrison Bergeron”.