Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in Harrison Bergeron

Updated: 1/28/2020
Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in Harrison Bergeron
You can find this storyboard in the following articles and resources:
Harrison Bergeron Lesson Plans

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale

”Harrison Bergeron”, the short story penned by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in 1961, imagines the world in 120 years, where the government has taken complete control over free thought and complete equality has finally been achieved – at a price, of course. In the quest for true equality, people gave up their rights in favor of eliminating all competition, drive, and desire: the very things that inspire innovation and creativity. The people in charge are the only ones who are allowed to think, and that power has grave consequences for Harrison Bergeron, a 14-year-old boy who is already 7 feet tall and virtually uncontrollable. The story explores important themes, such as what total equality at the cost of individuality could look like, and the dangers of losing free thought to a tyrannical government. The dystopian world Vonnegut paints is frighteningly dull, and frighteningly realistic.

Harrison Bergeron

Storyboard Description

Harrison Bergeron Themes, Symbols, and Motifs | Identify and illustrate different themes, symbols, and motifs that are found in Harrison Bergeron and how they impact the story

Storyboard Text

  • The handicaps are assigned to people who go above the threshold of “normal”, according to the government. They perpetuate the idea of “sameness”, providing a feeling of safety so people don't have to compete, think, or feel and government remains in control.
  • The ballerinas are assigned handicaps, including masks to hide differences. As George watches them, it comes to him that perhaps they shouldn’t be handicapped. They are so clumsy and hindered by their handicaps that his mind instinctively understands something isn’t right.
  • TV is the propaganda machine of the government. After watching her son’s murder on live television, Hazel can't remember why she is upset. She knows something she saw on the TV was sad but not that what she saw was a real experience. The TV has control over her life and mind.