In the world of “Harrison Bergeron,” the U.S. government requires all Americans with any above-average quality (strength, intelligence, beauty, etc.) to wear a handicapping device at all times. Designed to ensure that all Americans are perfectly equal, the handicapping devices are visual symbols of the power of the totalitarian government, and they demonstrate the perverse underbelly of valuing equality above all else: enforced equality leads to the suppression of individuality, the disfigurement and torture of innocent people for their innate qualities, and the forced mediocrity and terror. The prevalence of handicapping devices shows the intrusion of government into the private lives of citizens, as well as the cruelty and malfeasance of a government that forces its citizens to be in constant physical discomfort in order to prevent them from accessing their natural gifts. Furthermore, the result of these handicaps—that nobody can focus on thoughts, be considered beautiful, cultivate talents, or differentiate themselves from others in any way—is a society that is thoroughly mediocre. The arts have languished, professionals are not rewarded for being good at their jobs, and individuals lack interests or defined personalities. Not coincidentally, this mediocrity makes it easier for the government to consolidate and enforce its power. Since the handicapping devices are emblematic of the ideology of this dystopian society, as well as visual symbols of the government’s power, Harrison’s destruction of his handicap devices on live TV is a public act of dissent against the totalitarian government. The symbolism of his dissent is so dangerous to the status quo that he is publicly executed for his behavior.
Handicap Devices Quotes in Harrison Bergeron
George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn't be handicapped. But he didn't get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.
“The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?” If Hazel hadn't been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn't have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head. “Reckon it'd fall all apart,” said Hazel.