Harrison Bergeron Irony Essay

Situational irony occurs when the unexpected happens.  Situational can relate to the characters' expectations or the readers'.  In the case of Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," the situational irony involves the overall irony of the story, a surprising ending, and some unpredictable twists throughout.

The central irony of the story is the handicap system used by the government to ensure that all members of the society are equal.  Instead of allowing everyone to have the same advantages...

Situational irony occurs when the unexpected happens.  Situational can relate to the characters' expectations or the readers'.  In the case of Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," the situational irony involves the overall irony of the story, a surprising ending, and some unpredictable twists throughout.

The central irony of the story is the handicap system used by the government to ensure that all members of the society are equal.  Instead of allowing everyone to have the same advantages so that each can reach his or full potential, the constitutional ammendments in this futuristic society has disadvantaged its members so that no one is better than any one else.  No one is smarter or more talented than any other person. Equality is usually interpreted as everyone having the same advantages, not the same disadvantages.

The second irony involves Harrison Bergeron who because he is the brightest and most talented of all is the most handicapped.  His gifts make him a prisoner who must wear heavy weights around his neck and an ugly mask to hide his ugliness.  Instead of allowing such an intelligent person to rise to the top of the society, Bergeron is punished as if he is a criminal, forced to be weighed down so that he is "crippled, hobbled, and sickened."

Lastly, when Harrison Bergeron escapes his handicaps and begins to dance a beautiful dance with a ballerina who has also shed her handicaps, he is mercilessly shot by Diana Moon Glampers.  Instead of their actions being applauded and recognized for their grace and passion, they are killed as if they were criminals committed a horrible crime.  And also ironic, is the fact that Bergeron's parents who are watching their son's murder on television are so heavily handicapped that they have no idea what has happened.  All they know is that something sad happened on tv.

Satire is employed in Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" in order to expose the ridiculous idea that people can ever be made truly equal. Vonnegut's satire is developed through the use of humor, exaggeration, and the three types of irony: verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony.

The opening sentence of "Harrison Bergeron" contains verbal irony: "The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal." This statement is ironic because the author states that there is...

Satire is employed in Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" in order to expose the ridiculous idea that people can ever be made truly equal. Vonnegut's satire is developed through the use of humor, exaggeration, and the three types of irony: verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony.

The opening sentence of "Harrison Bergeron" contains verbal irony: "The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal." This statement is ironic because the author states that there is "equality," but he means something entirely different. The equality is a coerced equality, which, of course, is no equality at all. Laws have been passed that are enforced by agents of the government, handicaps have been placed on people, and only desensitizing television programs are broadcast. In one instance of the desensitization of people, Hazel Bergeron, who does not wear any handicaps because she is already "normal" (she has non-threatening looks and mediocre intelligence), watches heavily handicapped ballerinas on the television screen. She remarks, "That dance—it was nice." Her husband, George, who is very intelligent, "was toying with the vague notion that maybe talented dancers shouldn't be handicapped." As soon as he has this independent thought, it is cut off by an annoyingly loud noise in an ear radio he is forced to wear. This noise "shatter[s] his thought," and, as a result, he cannot continue his independent thinking. He must be equal in thought to Hazel.

There is also situational irony in which Vonnegut shows a discrepancy between the expected result and the real outcome of a situation. One situation that should produce outrage is presented in a calm manner. When the omniscient narrator states, "Some things about living still weren't quite right," such as the insignificant fact that "April still drove people crazy by not being springtime," the reader is led to believe that everything is under control and perfected except the weather. However, the reader later learns that in this "clammy month" of April, Harrison Bergeron has been arrested. Although this arrest has been tragic, Hazel and George Bergeron cannot think about it "very hard" because George is forced to wear a mental handicap that prevents him from thinking. Hazel is of the new "average intelligence," which means that she cannot think about anything for more than a few minutes. The parents' reactions to the arrest and incarceration of their son are ironic because people expect them to be devastated by the fact that their son has been taken to prison. They do not expect them to be so desensitized to this tragedy.

Dramatic irony occurs when the reader is aware of something that a character in the literary work does not know. An obvious example of dramatic irony is the fact that George Bergeron does not realize at the end of the narrative that his son has been killed. His wife, who is equal to the Handicapper General, cannot recall why she has been crying. Another example of dramatic irony is the awareness that the reader has about how terrible it is that this society has "forced equality," while mediocre characters such as Diana Moon Glampers and Hazel Bergeron are unaware of this fact.

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