Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" (short story, satire, free): An extreme version of the idea of "equal opportunity"

Quote from short story titled Harrison Bergeron by Kurt VonnegutWhat if everyone was made equal by

  1. Dumbing down the smart,
  2. Weakening the strong,
  3. Uglifying the beautiful,
  4. ... ?
In this story, this is done forcibly, via the office of "United States Handicapper General", until people have come to accept the idea as normal! Title is the name of a teenage rebel who will meet a sad end.

I can see something familiar in this very beautiful dark satire. And I guess readers from other countries will, too.

See also.

  1. William Tenn's "Null-P": Another political satire where everyone is an intellectual equal.
  2. Ted Chiang's "Liking What You See: A Documentary": What if you can no longer see either beauty or ugliness in a human face?
Both these have far less drastic impact than Vonnegut's version.

Fact sheet.

First published: F&SF, October 1961.
Rating: A.
Download full text from West Valley College, or from ToDay's MeNu. [first link via Best Science Fiction Stories]
Movie adaptations: Chandler Tuttle's "2081" (2009); Bruce Pittman's "Harrison Bergeron" (1995, TV); Patrick Horne's "Harrison Bergeron" (2006, short film).
Related: Stories of Kurt Vonnegut.


Joshua Rodriguez said...

What does this satire mean?