“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

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“Harrison Bergeron” is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical story about what the world would look like if everyone were truly equal.

Melissa: This was probably the first sci-fi short story I ever read. It was an assignment in my 9th grade English class. I don’t remember much of what I read in high school, but this story stuck with me. The idea of the handicapping system horrified me, and as a 14 year-old kid, I identified with Harrison – I wanted to fight the oppressive system and fly, even if it was just for a moment. Reading this story today, I find myself in the shoes of Hazel. I want my children to fight for what they believe in, but at the same time, I’m terrified of the consequences if they do. I also find myself reflecting on Vonnegut’s view of egalitarianism. I realize the story is satire, but I think some of his point may have been lost because he took the idea of equality so far. He makes the idea of equality so absurd, that it’s hard to take the warning seriously.

Joe: I imagine this story taking place in washed-out gray tones. It seems a very bleak sort of future in which, in the name of “competitive balance,” people are unable to live to their fullest potential. I thought that Vonnegut did an interesting job building this dystopic scene with concepts like the Handicapper General and the various ways people were handicapped to ensure “equality.” I can appreciate Vonnegut’s point of view in pointing out the danger of chasing the egalitarian ideal.

Brooke: I think the idea of everyone being equal was a good idea to use for a sci-fi story. It was a good use of satire. Overall, I really love this story. I like Vonnegut’s descriptions. It makes me feel afraid of a future where this could happen, but even though anything is possible, I don’t think this kind of future could happen.

Charlie: It’s…okay…I liked the descriptions and the storytelling. If you asked me if I think it would happen, you know, fifty years ago if you told someone they would be surfing the internet on their phones, they would’ve said it couldn’t happen. So could this story happen? I say yes. I liked the idea, it’s a really good idea. I think I relate to Hazel, because I could be thinking about something really deeply and then 5 seconds later, forget about it. (mom’s note: this is SO true) And none for Gretchen Weiners, goodbye. (I told you we’re fluent in movie quotes in this house)

Family Consensus: 7.5

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