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Harrison Bergeron vs. The Pedestrian Analysis

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Harrison Bergeron, the Pedestrian, and the Theme of Too Much Government Power

Science fiction stories tend to stick on some major themes. Writers often focus on the role of technology, humanity’s place in the universe, or excessive power given to the government. The two short stories “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury have the common theme of excessive government control. Both stories include what it would be like in the future if the government was given too much power.

In “Harrison Bergeron” everyone is equal. This may seem like a good thing at first but when you think about it you will probably change your mind. With everyone on a level playing field there is no competition, no point of sports, and really not a fun society at all. Two of the main characters, George and Hazel are married in the story. George is an above average person and is handicapped for his intelligence, or advantage over everyone else. He has a receiver in his ear which receives signals from a government transmitter. Every time he is thinking about something it will give off a piercing sound in his ear to stop his train of thought. He is also physically handicapped with weights. During the story, George and Hazel are watching a program on T.V. It is a group of ballerinas dancing, all with different handicaps, one including a mask to shield beauty. Later in the show, a boy, seven feet tall I might add, comes on to the stage. He happens to be their son, Harrison Bergeron, and believes all of the handicapping is wrong and immoral. He proceeds to rip off his extremely heavy physical handicaps, and takes the mask off the ballerina. The Handicapper General, the one who put all of these laws in place shows up on the stage, and shoots fourteen year old Harrison and the ballerina, with a shotgun. George and Hazel see this on T.V. and don’t even realize it is their own son being shot because of their handicaps.

In the second story, “The Pedestrian” Ray Bradbury describes a man, Leonard Mead, taking a walk at night in the year 2053. In the story Bradbury uses great imagery to describe the setting Leonard is walking through. Mr. Mead is walking on the sidewalk at night and he passes no one. There is no one on the sidewalk, on the street. All that can be seen is the light coming from TV’s inside the houses. All the people at this time almost never go out anymore. They just watch T.V. The city only has one police car, and no driver. By mere chance, the police car passes Mr. Mead walking on the sidewalk. The car asks him why he is walking and if he owns a television. The car assumes Mr. Mead is a crazy person and it takes him to a mental institution. Crime had been virtually eliminated because of the confines of the law.

Both of these stories describe the way of life the future could be like if the government is granted too much power. It shows us that we should keep limits on what the government should be able to do; find a happy medium between what is guiding people to have moral actions, and what is controlling people, such as a dictatorship.


I.P. Freely on June 04, 2015:

this was a lot of help on my homework project. thanks

thepheonixking on November 20, 2013:

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some countries are already like that. they focus on everyone being equal. there are shootings and killings everywhere because people go against the government.

Dzierba (author) from New York on February 24, 2011:

Appreciate the reply though Cogerson!

Dzierba (author) from New York on February 24, 2011:

The future will never get close to anything like what occurred in Harrison Bergeron. America is way too focused on individual ideals and encouraging you to be different and achieve, but then we are asked to "fit in" and conform as well. Kind of an oxymoron, but the world is still focused on individual achievement and will never come close to anything in Harrison Bergeron. Tell me one major example of someone trying to suppress someones achievement out of promoting fairness and tell me that it was accepted. You can't do it.

UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on February 24, 2011:

Harrison Bergeron from Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House is one of the best collection of short stories. His Bergeron projects a future that now seems more likely as each year passes. I will have to re-read the Ray Bradbury one I can't get all those gray cells to remember very well..great hub

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