"Harrison Bergeron" Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

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Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in Harrison Bergeron

Example



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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the story, and support their choices with details from the text.


Themes to Look For and Discuss

Total Equality

The ideal of equality has been fought for and is still being fought for all over the world. “Harrison Bergeron”, however, imagines what true equality, with the erasure of individuality altogether, might look like. The absence of differences in abilities, appearance, and intelligence paints a very grim picture of the world. Everything is boring, the same, and nothing needs to be questioned or discussed. While equality itself is an important ideal, it must be achieved without eliminating individual identity.


The Dangers of Losing Free Thought

Even though everyone in “Harrison Bergeron” is now officially “equal”, the government must maintain this through thought control. They achieve this by interrupting the thought processes of people with high intelligence, and maintaining the intelligence levels of those who are incapable of contemplating something profound. Without thought, there is no innovation, curiosity, or desire. In the absence of these things, there is also no rebellion, which allows the government to maintain complete control over its citizens. The story is a warning of what can happen when emotions, intelligence, and distinct characteristics are taken away from the basic human experience, leaving the oppressors in charge.



Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

The Handicaps

The handicaps are assigned to people who go above the threshold of “normal”, according to the government. The handicaps perpetuate the idea of “sameness”, and those who don’t conform to this ideal are punished severely by the government. The handicaps provide a certain feeling of safety, where people no longer have to compete, think, or feel, allowing the government to remain in control.


The Ballerinas

The ballerinas are assigned various handicaps, including the use of masks to hide their differing beauty. George watches the ballerinas and it comes to him that perhaps they shouldn’t be handicapped… they are so clumsy and hindered by their handicaps, that George’s mind instinctively understands something isn’t right. However, before such a treasonous thought can take hold, he is interrupted by his radio transmitter noise. His moment of free thought is suppressed by those in charge.


Television

The television is where the people of this dystopia receive their news and entertainment from. It is the propaganda machine of the government, who use the opportunity to paint Harrison’s abilities – “a genius and an athlete, under-handicapped” – as a danger to the population. Hazel, after watching her son’s murder on live television, is unable to remember why she is so upset. She is confused by the darkened screen, and knows that something she saw on the TV was sad. She doesn’t seem to grasp that what she witnessed was a real experience, displaying the control that the TV has over her life and mind.



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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in ”Harrison Bergeron”. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from ”Harrison Bergeron” you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

Template: Theme

Template


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