Harrison Bergeron Essay Titles About Death

In Kurt Vonnegut's 1961 short story "Harrison Bergeron," the title character is murdered at the end of the story. The killer is Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General responsible for ensuring that everyone in the United States is equal to one another. Harrison's death is significant because it shows the measures an authoritarian government will take to ensure its own survival.

When Harrison takes over the television studio, he states his intent to overthrow the government...

In Kurt Vonnegut's 1961 short story "Harrison Bergeron," the title character is murdered at the end of the story. The killer is Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General responsible for ensuring that everyone in the United States is equal to one another. Harrison's death is significant because it shows the measures an authoritarian government will take to ensure its own survival.

When Harrison takes over the television studio, he states his intent to overthrow the government that has tried to dull his intelligence, strength, and even good looks. He encourages the musicians and ballerinas in the studio to cast off their handicaps. His murder at the end of the story comes as a surprise to most first-time readers, but is not illogical considering the government he lives under.

Each handicap, whether Harrison's three-hundred pounds of extra weight, or his father's ear radio, represents a level of oppression. When nothing works to dull Harrison, the government employs its most extreme handicap: death. Though execution of dissidents is common in authoritarian societies, Vonnegut used Diana Moon Glampers as the executioner rather than a nameless police officer or soldier. By having the person responsible for handicapping American citizens pull the trigger, Vonnegut makes Diana Moon Glampers a symbol for the entire government.

Fictional characters' names are often significant. As the title of Kurt Vonnegut's short story is "Harrison Bergeron," this name may be noteworthy. 

The name Bergeron has a derivation from the Old German word berg, meaning hill or mountain, or it may be derived from the old French which means shepherd. (Genealogy archives)

Both of these meanings for the surname Bergeron carry significance for the very tall and strong Harrison Bergeron of Kurt Vonnegut's story, a brilliant young man who breaks out of prison. In a culture that values mediocrity, Harrison rebels and goes to the television station where, in his egoism, he wants to take over. He shouts, "I am the Emperor!" Then, removing all his handicaps and in great self-promotion, Harrison attempts to monopolize the cameras of the broadcast, leading the performers that are in the studio to rebellion. He chooses his "Empress" and they soar into the air in "an explosion of joy and grace!" So athletic is Harrison that he and the empress "leaped like deer on the moon." Harrison has been the leader and he has demonstrated his superiority. Indeed, there has been much significance in his name. In short, Harrison Bergeron is both a shepherd (a leader) and a mountain (a strong, tall figure).

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