Satire and Irony in “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

Harrison Bergeron a short fictional story written by Kurt Vonnegut uses several themes and motifs in depicting how the extreme implementation of equality can cause grave implications to people and a nation. In the year 2081, Americans suffer at the hands of freedom and equality that they majorly much fought for in the previous centuries. The United States Handicapper Generals abuse freedom by tormenting and imprisoning any citizen who depicts an above-average intelligence or capability (Vonnegut 1). The extreme degree of equality portrayed in Harrison Bergeron’s world eventually leads to a society where almost everyone suffers from impairment. Vonnegut depicts satire in his story by portraying that sometimes, the extreme practice of goodness and equality can translate into a violation of freedom and slavery. Vonnegut also employs satire in the first paragraph when he cites the constitutional amendments, “all equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution” (Vonnegut 1). In this scenario, it beats the logic that Americans struggled and suffered for so long to achieve an ideal constitution that would set them free. Yet in the year 2081, the same American society has violated that which it struggled to achieve.

In a funny and ironic writing Vonnegut communicates to his readers that, in extreme occasions, the implementation of equality if taken overboard can be a source of unhappiness to its subjects “…there were tears on Hazel’s eyes, but she’d forgotten for about what they were about ” (Vonnegut 3). It also ironic that the present constitution which offers freedom and joy to its citizenry only has ten amendments, but in the futuristic world created by Vonnegut the constitution has several amendments and yet it is an oppressor to its citizenry. The use of satire in Vonnegut’s short story principally covers the theme of equality. In the present world, it is normal and acceptable to compare a student’s capability with a fellow student. However, in Vonnegut’s world, it is satirical that the futuristic society compares the ability of a student to an adult as if they are both equal citizens. Harrison is just 14 years old when he escapes from prison, but the authority compares Harrison to an extremely dangerous criminal, “…. should be regarded as extremely dangerous.” (Vonnegut 3). It is ironic that a government that should care and protects its citizenry now inflicts pain and oppresses the same people it is obligated to serve. The government makes it a mandate that no citizen exceeds the other even in matters pertaining to natural looks. “…..she must truly beautiful because the mask she wore was hideous.” (Vonnegut 1) The concept of democracy has surely run its cause in this futuristic world. It is ironic the majority are subject to tyrannical ruling subjected to them by a few in government, yet it is a democratic society. “….. H-G men came and took Hazel and George Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison away” (Vonnegut 1)

Normally, in cases pertaining to liberation, adults especially men always play an active role. Men always strive to protect their women and children from oppressors. It is ironical that George does not fight back the oppression subjected to him by the government. He protects neither his wife Hazel nor his son Harrison. In fact, he warns his wife Hazel from disrespecting the government, “…..two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I take out” (Vonnegut 1). The adults in this futuristic world do not have their own opinion; they blindly and foolishly obey the authorities. Consequently, young children like Harris have to protect themselves from the oppressors, rather than receiving protection from their parents.

 

Work Cited
Vonnegut, Kurt. Harrison Bergeron. New York: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

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