There is a dominant thread in today’s political discourse that embraces equality as an absolute virtue. But what might society look like when that ever elusive ‘virtue’ is finally achieved? In Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron,” it’s the year 2081, and everyone is officially equal to one another–not just before the court of law, but in talent, looks, and abilities. As you might have guessed, this world is far more fantastical than what today’s ideologues might be envisioning for the future–but, as crazy as this story is, it offers a valuable critique about what happens when we rely on the powers that be to imbue the individual with worth.
In this episode, the girls discuss Vonnegut’s beloved short story and ponder how ‘‘equality’ often gets in the way of art, beauty, and true human flourishing.
“Harrison Bergeron” Fast Facts:
- Published in October 1961, eight years before Vonnegut came to real literary fame for Slaughterhouse-Five
- The first publication of “Harrison Bergeron” was in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the genre of the work is categorized as dystopian science fiction
- Vonnegut confesses that this short story might have sprung from his envy and self-pity as a high school misfit
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