Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: Harrison Bergeron

Tragic:

"[E]verybody was finally equal" (p.1)

John >>> The government made everyone "equal" by giving them "Handicaps." But everybody could tell who was better, because of the level of handicaps they wore.

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"Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better-looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General." (p.1)

Thomas >>> Was the General also handicapped? Multiple things throughout the story led me to think that she was not, and therefore it would not be truly equal. I believe that this idea of total equality is unachievable because not every man or woman will ever be equal in every way.

Tess >>> People have to be the same and if they are any better than someone else they have to have more handicaps.

Joseph >>> If nobody was better than anybody else we wouldn't be able to make much or any progress, and not have any originalities from one another. Also we could not really have leaders, and everyone outside of America would be better than us.

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"April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime."

John >>> This comment is one of the funny things in this story, showing that these people want everything perfect, even Mother Nature.

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"And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains." (p.2)

Tess >>> People couldn't be smarter than average without having an annoying transmitter in their ears sending random noises after every twenty seconds.

Joseph >>> I would rather not have a handicap then have one because I wouldn't want a loud sharp noise that stops me from thinking every twenty seconds. I'm not very smart and I probably wouldn't have one anyways, haha, but if I didn't I might feel stupid. . . or just laugh at the people who had the handicaps.

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"They were burdened with sash weights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel something like the cat drug in."

Thomas >>> This was humorous and also tragic at the same time, like most of the story. It is tragic because they have to live with such burdens to make them equal, and humorous because I don't find it that many people feel as if they are like "something the cat drug in," when they see someone they envy.

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"She was referring to the forty seven pounds of bird shot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George's neck."

Joseph >>> having forty seven pounds of birdshot around your neck all the time would be terrible and extremely heavy. Also you wouldn't be able to really do anything.

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"My God -" said George, " that must be Harrison!"

Maddy >>> George knows what Harrison sounds like since Harrison is his son. And the quote identifies that the sound was not an earthquake.

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"George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel's cheeks, but she'd forgotten for the moment what they were about."

"You been crying?" he said to Hazel.
"Yup," she said.
"What about?" he said.
"I forgot," she said. "Something real sad on television."
"What was it?" he said.
"It's all kind of mixed up in my mind," said Hazel.
"Forget sad things," said George.
"I always do," said Hazel." (p.8)

Hazel >>> Hazel couldn't even remember her own son being shot.

Tess >>> It is sad that their handicaps prevent them from remembering there own son's death.

Maddy >>> Hazel really is clueless because of the government and it also shows that (before she forgets) she knows it is her son, Harrison.

Humorous:

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"The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.Nobody was smarter than anyone else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else."

"She must have been extraordinarily beautiful because the mask she wore was hideous."

Hazel >>> Even though their new society was supposed to be equal the people who wore more handicaps could seem better than those with not very many.

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"Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers."

Thomas >>> Hazel and Diana being alike means Diana must not be very smart nor pretty, and offers some insight to the type of jealousy that may have inspired the idea of handicapping.

John >>> Earlier in the story, it described Hazel as having an average intelligence and as being normal, and this quote signifies that the person who is creating the handicaps and rules is someone who is average herself, trying to make everybody like she is.

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". . .crippled, hobbled, sickened - - I am greater than any man who ever lived!"
"Now watch me become what I CAN become!" (p. 6)

Maddy >>> Harrison is truly a threatening man to the environment and shows his personality.

Paige >>>

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"Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!" (p. 7)

Paige >>> Harrison probably also wanted an empress to keep him company. He was most likely really lonely from all those years of being in jail.

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"I am the Emperor!" cried Harrison. "Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!"

Tess >>> Harrison makes himself Emperor when he escapes jail because he thinks if he becomes the ruler, he can get rid of all the handicaps since he is the only one who understands that the way the Handicapper General is making people equal is doing more bad than good.

Joseph >>> Harrison makes himself emperor after he escapes from jail because he realizes that people don't have to be all equal and don't need to be tortured by their handicaps. Harrison would become emperor so nobody would have to have handicaps and the world would be like it was before it was a dictatorship.

Maddy >>> Harrison wanted to become Emperor because since he is only 14, he has less respect and fewer cares. He isn't conservative like an adult, either. He is also very sick of the "equal" law and wants to escape it.

Paige >>> Harrison escaped from jail and his five thousand pound handicaps... Therefore he believed that he was stronger and more worthy of being the Emperor of America. He was more handsome and way taller than any of the other people. Harrison wanted to become emperor because he wanted to see what it would be like to have more power over the government (the people with no handicaps). He knew he had the ability to, “. . .become what I can become!" (p. 6). He felt like he could change the government and change the way of the people, so they could express themselves like back in 2014. he had the ability to, so why not?

John >>> Harrison makes himself Emperor, showing that he is the best ever, and that no handicaps can defeat him.

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