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Science And Technology In Literature

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Just an Analog Boy in a Digital World

In the short story “Harrison Bergeron,” societal equality has been achieved by handicapping the most intelligent, athletic or beautiful members of society down to the level of the highest common endowment. To do so process central to the society which is overseen by the United States Handicapper General. At the time of the story, the office of Handicapper General is filled by the shotgun-toting Diana Moon Glampers. Harrison Bergeron, the protagonist of the story, has exceptional intelligence, height, strength and beauty, and as a result he has to bear enormous handicaps. These include distracting noises, three hundred pounds of excess weight, eyeglasses to give him headaches and cosmetic changes to make him ugly. Despite these societal handicaps, he is able to invade a television station and declare himself emperor. As he strips himself of his handicaps, then dances with a ballerina whose handicaps he has also discarded, but both are shot dead by the Handicapper General. The story explains that everyone is equal in intelligence due to the constitution and agents of the United States Handicapper General. This information proves that everyone in Vonnegut’s story cannot accurately be tested to see how smart he or she are in order to put a handicap on him or her that makes them completely equal to every other person. The equality of humans does not stop at their physical features but also include mental capacity. One may think a person is beautiful when another may not; therefore, one person is not capable of deciding who is beautiful or not precisely. It is shown that humans only use approximately ten percent of their brain. It is illustrated when Harrison’s parents are watching the dancers on the television, “She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous” (***). The characters, George and Hazel talk about ballerinas they see on the television and express the fact that the ballerinas are wearing masks in order to hide their beauty. The United States Handicapper General puts handicaps on people who have intelligence that is above average. Because physical attractiveness is an opinion, one cannot make such a decision for everyone as to whether one person is beautiful or not. It is also impossible to test one hundred percent of someone’s brain in order to figure out if they are above the average intelligence. The “Harrison Bergeron” idea of a perfectly equal society is a good concept but it is not completely accurate. A major theme in the short story is rebellion and how the main character, Harrison, channels his rebellion.

Rebellion is open opposition to authority or tradition. Usually the word rebellion implies disobedience when there should be obedience. The ancient French word for rebel is 'rebelle,' which means "to wage war again" (Rebellion). These symptoms describe what is commonly called a "conduct disorder," or "Oppositional Defiant Disorder," which is a behavioral problem characterized by uncontrolled anger, rebellion, resistance to discipline and a pattern of violating the rights of others and the laws set by society (Bain). Conduct disorders like ODD are becoming more common these days for both girls and guys. When behaviors like these are left untreated they don't get better by themselves, in fact they get a lot worse, even life threatening in some cases. Psychologists and psychiatrists generally separate disruptive disorders into two main categories: oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorders (Bain). The term "Oppositional Defiant Disorder" or ODD for short, is used to describe a young person whose symptoms include uncontrolled anger, resistance to discipline, and open defiance; the teen with a conduct disorder displays these symptoms as well, but also behaves in a way that often violates the rights of others (Bain).

For a generation now, disruptive young Americans who rebel against authority figures have been increasingly diagnosed with mental illnesses and medicated with psychiatric drugs. Disruptive young people who are medicated with Ritalin, Adderall and other amphetamines routinely report that these drugs make them "care less" about their boredom, resentments and other negative emotions, thus making them more compliant and manageable. And so-called atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Zyprexa (powerful tranquilizing drugs) are increasingly prescribed to disruptive young Americans, even though in most cases they are not displaying any psychotic symptoms. Young people diagnosed with ODD, by definition, are doing nothing illegal (illegal behaviors are a symptom of another mental illness called conduct disorder). In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created oppositional defiant disorder, defining it as "a pattern of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior"(Levine).The official symptoms of ODD include "often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules" and "often argues with adults." While ODD-diagnosed young people are obnoxious with adults they don't respect, these kids can be a delight with adults they do respect; yet many of them are medicated with psychotropic drugs.

An even more common reaction to oppressive authorities than overt defiance is some type of passive defiance. John Holt, the late school critic, described passive-aggressive strategies employed by prisoners in concentration camps and slaves on plantations, as well as some children in classrooms. Holt pointed out that subjects may attempt to appease their rulers while still satisfying some part of their own desire for dignity "by putting on a mask, by acting much more stupid and incompetent



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