Literary Essay Sample on Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Published: 2022-08-26
Literary Essay Sample on Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
Type of paper:  Book review
Categories:  American literature
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 577 words
5 min read

The piece "Harrison Bergeron" is one that provides both negative and positive criticism in a political and social basis of America in general and what America was like in the 60's. Kurt Vonnegut Jr depicts an American political system solely founded on the principles of egalitarianism. By definition, egalitarianism is supposed to be a fabric that prevents society from disintegrating by means of equal treatment whatsoever (Joodaki & Mahdiany, 2013). Equality is a virtue memorized by the declaration made by Americans during independence in the phrase, "all men are created equal." Kurt junior finds this contradictory in his text as he feels that literal translations of the egalitarianism issue could be entirely dangerous. If the equality stand is to be as literal as it sounds, the people should be forced to have almost the same behaviors, appearances, as well as accomplishments.

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"Harrison Bergeron" directly critiques the communism issue. In the 60's blacklisting of communists was done literally after engagements with Russia in the cold war in the McCarthy era, while in the current futuristic American community as depicted in "Harrison Bergeron", suggests that the communist principle entirely entails the idea of massive power and wealth, distributed in an unequal manner, terming it as a welcomed idea (Vonnegut & Offit, 2012). Vonnegut terms such principles as foolish and only through handicapping the better and cleverer citizens can the misinterpreted goal of equality be achieved. The modern American society depicts it as unnatural and abnormal to reject and punish those that reject social norms such as communism.

Modern critiques of the text have interpreted the dystopia depicted in Kurt Vonnegut Jr text as a snapshot of what is to be expected to be of future America if trends such as political correctness and psychiatric drugs are allowed to dominate and proliferate the society. Modern readers try to equate the calm, unthinking and passive characters depicted in "Harrison Bergeron" as modern use of tranquility induction drugs. Some go as far as arguing that the characters in the text lacked all forms of social and political virtues including passion, creativity, and intelligence. The subject concerning the issue of political correctness helps Vonnegut to equate people using logistics (Vonnegut & Offit, 2012). In his argument, he suggests that equal treatment of all people especially the marginalized, may a ride down a slippery slope. He ends his equality quest with the logic that it may make people end up treating things and people in a manner that seems unnatural as in modern America, whereby ugly people are treated as beautiful in the name of equality.

Motifs of tyranny, as well as unethical behaviors, have been tackled in the protagonist text. The right to freedom is embedded in the background of the story and is never allowed to come into the open. Such is the futuristic American society whereby freedom is no longer a deeply rooted American value (Joodaki & Mahdiany, 2013). Vonnegut puts forward his suggestion of how easily freedom can be snatched away from someone especially after constitution amendments authorizing forced equality. While in the 60's civil rights were a thing, current America values mediocrity. This has gone to extreme points that people accept unjust treatment all in the name of equality.


Joodaki, A. H., & Mahdiany, H. (2013). Equality versus Freedom in ''Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut: A Study of Dystopian Setting. International Journal of Applied

Linguistics and English Literature, 2(4), 70-73.

Vonnegut, K., & Offit, S. (2012). Novels & Stories 1950-1962. Library of America.

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