After reading “Harrison Bergeron”, answer the following questions. Use complete sentences and specific evidence from the text to support your claims. Make sure you also indicate the page number when you are pulling evidence from the story.
1. Describe Vonnegut’s America. Are there positive aspects of this society? What is lacking?
2.In May 1961, about five months prior to the appearance of Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” Newton Minow, then chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, gave a memorable speech titled “Television and the Public Interest,” which challenged his audience as follows:
“I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.
You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder . . . and cartoons. And endlessly commercials—many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.”
Since 1961, TV has grown in leaps and bounds, making Americans even more addicted to it than George and Hazel and their society were. But has it remained the “vast wasteland” that Vonnegut parodied and of which Minow spoke? Do other technologies like the Internet, Twitter, or instant messaging improve the American character? Our prospects for happiness? If so, how? If not, why?
3.What “handicaps” have been assigned to Hazel Bergeron? What “handicaps” have been assigned to her husband, George? Explain the purpose for each. How do you think this society evolved? What conditions and/or attitudes would have to be in place or prevalent to produce this kind of society – this kind of thinking?
4. Are people equal in 2081? Explain.
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