In order to find or create a utopia, you must also discover or create a dystopia. When there is a perfect place, an equally opposite place hides from within it. From the outside, utopia and dystopia can be clearly defined; a dystopia is a terrible place ruled by unrelenting dictators forcing slavery and their ideas upon the population while a utopia is a perfect, ideal place to live in for any man or woman.
The line between utopia and dystopia is actually blurred as the truth behind utopias allow dystopias to exist. In the book, “Brave New World”, the line between utopia and dystopia is blurred as the reader can easily tell it is dystopian society, whereas the people of the society see it as the perfect society. In the same way, the short story “Harrison Bergeron” shares this quality, as to the viewer, they are a dystopian society with the government controlling and handicapping people, while to themselves, they are a utopia as they are creating a world where everybody is equal. A dystopia hides in the shadows and underbelly of every utopia as the line between the two is continually being blurred.
Most utopias will hide as illusions in a society. To the outsider, there may be slavery and poverty forced by thier rulers, but on the inside, the people are extremely well off as they believe they live in a truly perfect place. We can see evidence of this in the book “Brave New World”, as for the powerful and higher class “alphas” to be able to live in their utopia, the lower class “deltas” and “epsilons” must be forced to do menial and stressful work.
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These people are forced into jobs that they were designed to do from the very beginning without a choice. They are essentially slaves to the higher class, and yet, they do not believe they are slaves as they have been forced by their rulers to believe they are happy and live in a perfect place. In the same manner as “Brave New World”, the citizens of “Harrison Bergeron” are lead on to believe the life they live is fair.
Each citizen is burdened with a handicap that hinders their ability to do anything. The idea of no one being better than another person is a common theme in the making of a utopia, but equality is not always achievable. When handicaps are forced upon people, their individuality get taken away.. The desire for equality seems good for people like Hazel and George, but for people like Harrison and the ballerina, having their individuality stripped away shows the control that the government has over the society and their ability to strip their citizens of their freedom and sense of identity.
The idea of a society being a utopia blinds people from seeing their unique, and special abilities. This can be seen in the book “Brave New World”, as the citizens of the society are content to being under the strict control of the government and do not know what it means to really be happy and be themselves. The people are controlled by their desire for pleasure and are conditioned to believe they are free.
In actuality though, they are enslaved by their passion in a world driven by instant pleasure and gratuitous sex. In the same vein, the society of “Harrison Bergeron” prevents a person from being able to be unique and be able to reach their full potential. An example would be when the ballerinas were forced to dance with heavy weights on. These dancers are not able to dance to their fullest potential due to the weights that they are required to wear and are encouraged to conform to society's view of “average”. Harrison and the ballerinas dance is a symbol for the potential freedom that the citizens of the society could have.
A utopia cannot exist without sacrificing what makes humanity so truly wonderful as a whole; free will. The ability to decide for ourselves if we will walk in the sun or cower in the shadows. The ability to determine for ourselves how we will shape our own destiny towards whatever hopes and dreams we cling to. The idea that we, as people, are ultimately heroic in an age when heroes and legends don’t truly exist. In comparison, both “Brave New World” and “Harrison Bergeron” undermine this ideology as their respective governments force their hands against the free speech of their people.
The society of “Brave New World” is an illusion of a perfect world as people experience constant censorship and government control with, for example, citizens being exiled to Iceland for speaking out against the government and for stating their own personal opinion. Additionally, the people of “Brave New World” are told to believe in science and innovation and yet, they are not allowed to research anything that would disrupt the balance of the society.
The people are unable to express their thoughts and explore alternative ideas that do not conform to the society’s standard of living as they live in a society that disallows free thought. Likewise, the society of “Harrison Bergeron” states that free will and insubordination towards the government will not be tolerated as everyone needs to be equal, whether it is desired or not. Everyone being equal means nobody has any free thought or free will. They are obligated to be equal with one another as equality is the focus of life.
"Harrison Bergeron" is a great example of a story that depicts governmental dictation and lack of free will. Within this story, equality is the focus of life. The government formulated handicaps so that everyone would be equal, no matter how talented he or she is. That restriction of free will is the main theme of the short story, and Vonnegut goes into great detail about them. "Such methods of control include mental handicap radios in ears which emit ghastly sounds to interrupt and control thought, masks which conceal exceptionally attractive faces and clothing which does the same for bodies, and weights that the physically strong carry at all times, like handicaps for horses."
From the moment a utopia is established, the simple need to sustain a society would immediately lead towards a dystopia. Maintaining a perfect society where all human needs are met would require the suppression of thoughts, people, and their behaviour. People are naturally competitive, ambitious, and aggressive. This implies that a society where there is no power imbalances, struggle, and pain is a society that is unsustainable. A utopia would seek to remove these sources of inequality and division, but would have to use increasingly oppressive dystopian methods to enforce the system.
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