An Analysis of the Theme of Human Psychology in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut is a short story and a film that portrays numerous facets of human psychology linked with themes that portray a bleak future for the human species. Among these themes is the importance of individuality, the need for knowledge of one’s history, and the stunning effect that one individual can produce through his vision of the truth. The government in this futuristic world of 2053 has manipulated human intelligence to the point where all persons are required to wear bands that rest on their temples. These bands electronically modify intelligence, effectively increasing or decreasing natural IQs to the point where everyone is average. Obviously, these new ideals have no basis in reality. While equality must be striven for in many aspects, it is the differences between people that comprise the backbone of modern society.

Irony is prevalent in this movie as well. Where Harrison is chastised and mocked for his intelligence, secretly he is being monitored by an agency of highly intellectual individuals that run the country, akin to the “Wizard of Oz.” The ironic part is that there is a necessity for highly intelligent persons in this “perfect” society. John Claxton (head of the compound) states that there are certain complexities in dealing with other countries that the average individual in America cannot comprehend. Thus, he possesses the role of the godlike advisor, leading the organization behind the scenes that advises and monitors television, news, the president, and all forms of media accessible to the public.

Through interpretation, the viewer realizes that under the false facade of mediocrity, society truly covets intelligence. Unbeknownst to Harrison, the woman that recruits him (with whom he ultimately falls in love) is the daughter of Claxton, named Philippa. She was originally conceived in the compound, where rules expressly forbid children between members. Claxton “pulled some strings,” and she became one of the organization’s members. Philippa becomes pregnant by Harrison, and flees. Ultimately, Claxton’s second-hand man performs a lobotomy on her as her punishment.

Their child is still birthed, but extenuating circumstances prevent Harrison from realizing this. The final form of irony appears in the scene previously discussed where Harrison broadcasts movies to the public. People appear mesmerized by the program, and some remove their headbands to the pleading of Mr. Bergeron. Supposedly, this scene gives hope for the future of the American culture. Unfortunately, Harrison later learns that only 1.3% of the public actually heard the true meaning of the program, and removed their bands for good. Disparity descends on the movie, and John Claxton urges Harrison to tell the people of the country that it was all a hoax (to preserve order). He does this, but commits suicide on the air to demonstrate the reality of the situation to the people.

Symbolism is utilized at the conclusion of the film when two boys enthusiastically bound up the stairs in a home to view the recording of Harrison in the TV studio. They discuss a friend’s possession of other portions of the program before settling in to view it. After sitting, the two boys nonchalantly remove their headbands to watch the broadcast without mental hindrance. This is symbolic of a freeing of the mind, and the throwing off of shackles and handicaps imposed on them by the government. Children have more exploratory minds than adults, and are thus more receptive to new ideas and beliefs.

The mere fact that they desire to watch the program illustrates hope for the future of society, as children are the future of every nation. Harrison Bergeron did not make an immediate impact on America, but others later accepted his values. Philippa is shown at the bottom of the staircase in the final shot, making it apparent that one of the boys upstairs is Harrison’s son. If the stairs are interpreted as an evolutionary ladder, it is conceivable that the boy’s presence upstairs puts them on a higher hypothetical rung than Philippa, who still wears her headband.

Harrison Bergeron acts as the outsider in Plato’s cave, venturing into the world apart and returning to tell the others of his vision. The truth that he outlines for them is considered absurd, and he is ultimately consumed by the culture he wishes to change. While his existence may seem to have been in vain, he does change the future. The themes and symbolism in this work of modern art by Kurt Vonnegut illustrate to modern society the importance of individuality and the danger of conforming to a preconceived norm.

Cite this paper

An Analysis of the Theme of Human Psychology in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”. (2023, May 15). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/an-analysis-of-the-theme-of-human-psychology-in-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out