Harrison Bergeron And The Unknown Citizen Analysis

Improved Essays
When individuals consider the meaning of equality, they usually envision everyone possessing the same liberties and opportunities, regardless of any personal differences. Therefore, people often think of equality in a positive manner; what they do not realize is that equality can also refer to everyone living together under miserable conditions, including a lack of freedom or individuality. “Harrison Bergeron,” a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, and “The Unknown Citizen,” a poem by W.H. Auden, describe societies that reflect the latter. In “Harrison Bergeron,” the Handicapper General, an official in the American government, controls the thoughts and actions of every citizen through mental and physical handicaps. However, a young man named Harrison …show more content…
The speaker of this poem adopts the viewpoint of a government official who is examining the file of this particular citizen. The information within this file describes all his habits, qualities, and organizations that he is affiliated with. A shared theme between “Harrison Bergeron” and “The Unknown Citizen” is a false image of equality; in both societies, the thoughts and actions of all individuals are identical. Both works implement social commentary and irony to express this message, but they differ in whether the characters voluntarily fit in or are forced to think and behave a certain way.
In both “Harrison Bergeron” and “The Unknown Citizen,” members of society think and live in nearly the same manner, which is a misinterpretation of equality. In “Harrison Bergeron,” the introduction immediately establishes the premise for the rest of the plot, which is that “…everybody [is] finally equal,” and “Nobody
…show more content…
Furthermore, both works make use of social commentary and irony. Social commentary is present in “Harrison Bergeron” since the author forecasts the future of the United States by the year 2081 as shown by the text, “The year was 2081 and everybody was finally equal…” Kurt Vonnegut Jr. believes that American citizens are too focused on achieving social equality by conforming to the lifestyle of others. This creates a culture of consumerism, represented by the Handicapper General in the text, in which all citizens possess the same products so they do not feel inferior by being different. Generally, in the United States, whenever an individual hopes to transcend social expectations by seeking to “…strip themselves of their handicap,” as Harrison Bergeron does, a ‘mental handicap,’ specifically a desire to fit in, ultimately controls his/her decisions. If a person continues to defy the standards set by the community, he/she faces the ultimate consequence, social exclusion and intolerance, which many feel is a second form of death. This displays fault on the part of the citizens, who trap themselves in this situation in the first place, as well as the government, which advocates this overall culture. The social commentary found in “The Unknown Citizen” mainly discusses the effects of World War II on human society, such as inciting fear about acting differently

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    Kurt Vonnegut’s Dystopia: Consequences of Society’s Behavior Since the very dawn of human society, humans have continually listed equality as a fundamental aspiration or achievement. However, as these societies have striven for equality, the element of freedom in those same societies becomes forfeited. In Harrison Bergeron, author Kurt Vonnegut forewarns the world about the quest for equality. In his story, he cautions Americans about the dangers of creating an equalitarian society, whereby citizens aim to create a place where all people are equal despite sacrificing their freedom, and individuality to the state. The satirical work, Harrison Bergeron, is a work of science of fiction that takes place 120 years into the future, when Constitutional…

    • 990 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    In his short story Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut establishes what life is like when all people are “equal.” Vonnegut states, “They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal in every which way” (VONNEGUT). Vonnegut portrays how forcing everyone to be the same creates a dystopian culture that is doomed to cause suffering for the citizens, viewing people with differences the bane of cultures existence. In order to enforce extreme equality, a certain level of IQ, beauty, and talent must be maintained across the entire culture, with no one falling above or beneath the certain level. If one person begins to naturally excel in any one area, handicaps must be given to them to maintain the certain level that equality exists in.…

    • 1377 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    A common value is how Americans are proud and have love for their country. Others have different meaning of values when disagreement of principles are challenge with limits of boundaries political system. A common value is equality, but as time has progress, today we witness inequality of injustice. Citizens believe in a society where the government should treat everyone as equal because a small portion agrees with government improving their roles in social and economic for minorities becoming equal. If the government improve what society feels it lacks then perhaps Americans will change their views of government with gaining knowledge of politics’ belief like the meaning of equality, everyone able to access it.…

    • 1215 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Unfortunately, these societies exist in the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and The Giver, a novel by Lois Lowry. Both societies’ governments force equality on all citizens and believe that the society is a utopian, however, what is being created is a dystopian society. Both also deal with the death of individuality and suppressing a person’s true self. In “Harrison Bergeron”, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. shows the trying to be equal in beauty, intelligence, and strength…

    • 1090 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    How Far Are We Willing To Take Equality “There’s nothing wrong with you, there’s a lot wrong with the world you live in,” was once said by a wise man named Chris Colfer. In the story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, the world is distorted to show complete equality. The government forces people to be altered by handicaps because they are “too smart” or “too beautiful.” The author uses this world to show that although equality is what many strive for, it should have its limits. The author uses different negative phrases, ideas, and events to show his theme over the course of the story. One way Vonnegut shows the readers equality should have its limits is by revealing the ways in which people are equal.…

    • 627 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Equality is agreeably something the world should be pursuing, but should we have total equality? Should everyone be the same in order for it to be fair? Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, “Harrison Bergeron” describes a world where there is total equality; everyone is the same. The story takes place in 2081, where amendments have been added to make everyone the same. Those who are stronger, faster, smarter or beautiful wear burdens to bring them down to the same level as the rest of society.…

    • 257 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    A country or state succeeds when everybody works to accomplish it. Therefore, all citizens should be allowed to contribute, so every kind of social exclusion or discrimination must be avoided. Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Langston Hughes (1902-1967) emphasized the importance of union among American citizens. Both Whitman’s “One Song, America, Before I Go” and Hughes’ “I, Too” point out the significance of the union among Americans despite the differences existent. Even though both authors highlighted the importance of the union for the success of the nation, the authors approach the topic differently.…

    • 803 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Although these types can differ dramatically, the same goal of all governments remains alike. That goal is to provide direction and regulation for its inhabitants. Democracy and Communism are two forms of government that can be placed on the opposite sides of this scale. When referencing to these types of government, an English writer named Alan Moore once said, “People shouldn 't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people” (Goodreads).…

    • 1252 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    What problems could be created in society as a result of absolute equality? A multitude of people believe that equality has numerous benefits, and should be a fundamental part of a society. However, in “Harrison Bergeron,” the author demonstrates the unfavorable sacrifices of benevolence and justice in order for everybody to be truly equal in every way. Set in the year 2081, the government reinforces members of society to wear handicaps, such as weights, earpieces, and masks, provided that no one will surpass another’s strength, intelligence, and physical appearance. As a result, people become ignorant and ineffectual, and therefore cannot resist or rebel against the government and their inhumanity.…

    • 446 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    God's work is not excited domestic insurrections amongst the people and endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers. When the Declaration of Independence was being composed it included the significance of life and liberty, the notion that all men are created equal, and the dissolution of the government. The most important part of the Declaration of Independence is this infamous line "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (Jefferson). I feel that the biggest reason why America needs its own form of government because it is specifically protecting LIFE, LIBERTY, and PROPERTY. Jefferson writes, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights (Jefferson) He is saying in this line that God is saying it is our right to be free.…

    • 1939 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Improved Essays