Equalty – Vonnegut “Harrison Bergeron” and Williams “The idea of equalty”
• In what ways are the people equal in the short story? “Everybody was finally equal” → Nobody
was smarter, quicker, or better looking than everybody else. All the qualities that the individuals
possessed, physical or intellectual were constrained by external handicaps → so that everyone was
supposed to have the same share of absolutely everything, which made them equal.
• How is this equality maintained? The equality among the individuals was maintained through the
Handicapper General enforcement, which made sure that by handicapping people in a variety of
ways they would all end up being equal.
• What were the “dark ages” like? The dark ages was the time in which the society was not an
egalitarian society but a competitive one → this competitive society was based on who was better
than the others or whose qualities excelled from the rest. Competition was the inequality that they
got rid off → by reducing competition they also got rid of the passions and to an extent the ability
of the individuals to feel emotions.
• What conceptions of equality does the story mock? It mocks a totalitarian idea of equality → the
idea that an extreme state of equality eventually eliminates the individual’s freedoms.
• Does the story contain any critiques of inequality? Yes, because it ends on Harrison’s desire to
become a dictator as he considered himself better than the rest, and to rule by grounding in social
The Idea of Equalty – Williams:
What is equality? How can we interpret the statement “all men are equal”? What do we have in common as
human beings? What common vulnerabilities do we share?
• The statement that all men are equal is not a factual statement (because of all the differences
between men’s skills, strengths, intelligence, etc.); but a normative statement. → all human beings
are equal by their virtue of humanity → we are all human. Thus, because we are all human, we are
owed some standards of treatment → which can lead t