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Recent Reading: Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Harrison Bergeron (a short story), by Kurt Vonnegut

This short story depicts a dystopian world in which all men are equal (America in 2081). All men being equal, however, it turns out, is not easy to accomplish. Equality is accomplished through government-imposed handicaps.

For instance, if you are more intelligent than the average person, you are fitted with a mandatory ‘earbud’ (if you will) that pumps in random loud noises every few minutes to make sure you can’t sustain a train of thought. Or, say you’re too beautiful, then you are required to wear a mask. You can always know who’s beautiful, since they’ll be the one wearing the ugliest mask.If you’re too physically able, maybe a fast runner, then you have to constantly wear a heavy load on your back.

As with Player Piano, which I also read recently, the book ends with the promise of a messiah that will deliver the world from its bondage to equality, and the ultimate failure of that messiah.

The story turns out to be a fairly good parable for a culture still coming to grips with what equality truly means – a culture that rejects the notion that God desires unity, not uniformity – and a culture that always rejects those (him) who would save it from itself. You can read the story online HERE.


    • Heath says:

      I don’t know that I would call it prophetic. I would probably call it perceptive. I think he saw it in his own day and rightly assumed that we would keep heading down that path. He wanted to show the danger.

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