Shirley Jackson And Kurt Vonnegut's Inequality For All

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Inequality for All
Although following traditions is common practice in most cultures, a person’s failure to question the meaning of certain traditions and blindly following along can have a detrimental consequence for both individuals in a society and society as a whole. Despite their use of divergent writing styles, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut share important characteristics that support a similar worldwide view of equality. The conflict in both stories is between what a single person wants and what the institutions of society demand. The way the authors develop their characters and use a common theme of equality leaves readers to believe that ‘equality for all’ is not necessarily a good thing.
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Harrison Bergeron disagrees with society and the policy of forcing everyone to be equal by law. The story is about a futuristic society in which the government creates 213 amendments to their constitution to ensure all Americans are fully equal. Similar to the way Jackson creates a social hierarchy when developing her characters, Vonnegut does the same thing when developing his characters. In his attempt to create equal people, he creates a social hierarchy that separates his characters into classes. At the top of the social ladder is the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glamper. She is in charge of enforcing the government’s 213 Constitutional amendments and “shoots Harrison and the ballerina dead in two shots” (Vonnegut 235) as punishment for removing his handicaps. The middle rungs of the ladder are the government created ‘average’ people who wear physical handicaps to make all them “equal in every which way” (Vonnegut 232) to their peers. For example, a “little mental handicap radio” was placed in George’s ear to keep him “from taking unfair advantage of his brain” (Vonnegut 232) and the beautiful ballerinas “were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked” (Vonnegut 232) in order to hide their beauty. Harrison Bergeron, the smartest, most athletic, and best-looking member of their community sits at the bottom of the social ladder. “Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps” (Vonnegut 234) than Harrison. Harrison was required to wear “at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random” (Vonnegut 234). Harrison becomes fed up with all the societal rules and breaks out of jail; takes off his handicaps; and attempts to overthrow the government. It is his disregard for societal rules that ends up getting him shot by the Handicapper

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