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Harrison Bergeron
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Footnotes 2017-2018 > Harrison Bergeron (Dystopian)

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message 1: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2063 comments I can't believe I forgot about his story for dystopia. Has anyone else read Harrison Bergeron. Its a short story.

message 2: by Idit (new)

Idit | 1028 comments I checked it out just now (better than cleaning my house...)

It's rather silly story but cute.
not only is it a dystopia, but it's also magical realism. and who knows, maybe Hazel is actually a spy :)

I am sending it to few of my friends who have kids at the same school - while I don't think there was ever a real risk that the US would have become a place where everyone is forced to be equal - it does hits close to home in regards to education of kids these days - every kid gets an award, so no one feels left out or not as good...

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) Cute is not the word I'd use. Intense, horrifying, relevant, unforgettable.

message 4: by Idit (new)

Idit | 1028 comments Cheryl wrote: "Cute is not the word I'd use. Intense, horrifying, relevant, unforgettable."

I might be wrong but the US never seemed to me in risk of trying to make everyone the same - isn’t it a very individualistic society, that cherished people striving to do their best?

Australia for example has a phrase: ‘tall poppy syndrome’ - which is metaphorical cutting the heads of anyone that strive higher than the average. But I honestly never associated that with the US

I think if I had read it a while ago my reaction would have been different but it looks like a parody to me.

I would love to hear your ideas about it Cheryl

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) We in the US are kinda stressed by that dissonance.

Yes, we have heros who are lauded for their hard work, for example historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and sports stars.

At the same time we give every child in the talent show a ribbon for *something* so that nobody feels left out and everybody gets to feel special. Mr. Rogers was a wonderful man, but people didn't understand what he was saying....

We also have large classrooms and stressed teachers, and it's easiest for them to look good on performance measures like standardized tests if they teach all students at slightly below grade-level. Giving special challenges to the 'gifted and talented' is not easy, so those children languish while materials and heuristics are 'dumbed-down' so that 'no child [is] left behind.'

And then we have the whole confusion over Political Correctness. It's supposed to be about respect. It's supposed to be, for example, "people who use wheelchairs need ramps or elevators to have access to buildings" which puts People first, puts the challenge they have second, and is specific about what that challenge is. (Rather than "cripples need extra help" which defines the people in terms of their disability and is condescending and not helpful.)

However, the many people who don't understand how to show respect mock PC. You could do an online search for egregious examples; I don't want to post them here. A common example is still using names of sports teams like Indians and Braves, despite the protests from some people of Native nations.

And Harrison Bergeron touches on all that. Vonnegut clearly thinks it important that people are recognized for their individual strengths and talents. He clearly thinks a healthy society would encourage people who can excel in something to work to do so. But he also recognizes the need that people have to feel validated, as if they matter, even if they don't have any special talents. He explores the idea of 'gold stars for everyone' taken to the extreme of making everyone perform at the level of the "lowest common denominator" (which is another phrase you can google). It's sort of a "no audience member left behind" kinda thing.

What's horrifying is that, in our society and in Australia's and in Harrison Bergeron's, if we knock down all the Tall Poppies, who will be our Leaders? Who will solve the problems of Energy Scarcity and Climate Change? Who will bring Peace to the Middle East and Prosperity to sub-Saharan Africa?

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) It's a satire, imo, not a parody. After all, there's no actual specific figure being mocked, rather it's a whole aspect of culture that Vonnegut is expressing anger towards. Yes, in a way, it's funny. But my conscience gives me a twinge when I laugh at satire. Parodies don't induce the twinge because they're lighter because they're directed at a limited set of foibles of one person or one focused group of people, and they're not as 'angry.'

Jonathan Swift is just one of many famous authors of satires. His very short essay A Modest Proposal is a superb example of a satire that is angry, and funny, and addresses a larger issue than just one idjit.

A good example of a parody is '"King Tut" (a 1978 parody by Steve Martin on Egyptian King Tutankhamen, the national obsession of the times)' (from That's lighter, even 'cute.'

message 7: by Idit (new)

Idit | 1028 comments Thanks! I loved reading your thoughts.
And I accept your correction - it is a satire and social commentary
I agree ‘Modest proposal’ is absolutely great. And will go and check your second example

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) :smiles:

message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2063 comments Cheryl, loved your analysis. You brought out some points i missed and clearly verbalized other better than i ever could. Thamkyou.

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) Glad to know you found value in what I posted.

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