Subject High School Subjects High School English


Choose six of the questions from Part I and two of the questions from Part II to answer.

Part I

Why do you think Vonnegut portrays the government as trying to achieve equality by handicapping people who are more gifted instead of helping people who are less gifted?

Since the Constitution was adopted in 1787, just 27 Amendments have been added, several of them to ensure equality among Americans. What does Vonnegut, by having an additional 186 Amendments added to the Constitution by 2081, seem to be suggesting about the future of America ?

The narrator's statement in the second paragraph that "some things about living still weren't quite right" seems to suggest the government in 2081 is doing what it can to make things right. What evidence do you see in the story that the government's intentions are good but simply mistaken? What evidence do you see that its intentions are actually self-serving or malevolent?

What is the significance of Hazel's strong resemblance to the Handicapper General?

What is the significance of George's comment that he no longer minds or even notices the handicap bag padlocked around his neck?

Why do you think the Handicapper General uses a variety of noises, instead of just one, to stifle George's thinking process?

Hazel says the television announcer, who has "a serious speech impediment . . . should get a nice raise for trying so hard." Do you think people should be awarded for trying hard, even if they are not successful? Explain.

For what reasons and to what effect does Vonnegut use hyperbole in "Harrison Bergeron"? Is he, in your opinion, successful?

Does Vonnegut seem to be supporting the idea of having an emperor? Explain.

Why does Vonnegut have Harrison's triumphant moment end so abruptly and unequivocally? What effect does this have on the reader?

What is the significance of the last line in the story?

Part II

To what extent do you think competition is good? To what extent do you think it is bad? Explain.

Most Americans agree that we should be equal in the opportunity we have to succeed in our society. What, if anything, do we need to do to ensure everyone actually has an equal opportunity? Do some people face unfair odds in pursuing opportunity? Do some people receive unfair advantages?

What do you think should be the government's role in ensuring equality? Be specific about the types of equality you are addressing.

As noted above, "Harrison Bergeron’’ seems to be based on a controversial 1961 speech by then Federal Communications Commission chairman Newton Minow titled "The Vast Wasteland,’’ a reference to a supposed lack of quality in television programming. Do you think television broadcasters have any obligation or responsibility to present programming that encourages us to think?

How would you define the "dumbing down" of America? Who is responsible? What are their motives?

Solution Preview

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The “dumbing down” of America has all to do with America moving away from a society of high academic expectations and standards to a society which mere rewards effort. In order to keep up with 21rst Century Standards and to compete within our global community we must revert back to a set of rigorous standards and create programs and structures to prepare our your people to meet such challenges if American intends to keep its place as a national force to be reckoned with. Governmental leadership at the federal, state and local levels are responsible for the successful return of rigorous ...

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