"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt
Vonnegut, Jr.
Harrison Bergeron Agenda and Goals
 Author Study
 Pre-Reading
 Theme Notes
 Thesis Notes
 Read and Annotate Harrison Bergeron
 Discussion
 Begin Literary Analysis essay
By the end of this reading and lesson we hope to:
 appreciate individual differences,
 seek opportunities for self-fulfillment,
 evaluate the government's responsibility in providing equal
 Understand how to analyze THEME
 Be able to write a cohesive, meaningful introduction paragraph
 Author Interview-Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Author Background
What do you get if you cross satire, dark humor, science
fiction, and pessimism? You get Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a man
who wrote about tragically horrible moments but made
them so funny that he became one of the twentieth
century’s foremost American authors. Certainly Vonnegut
was allowed to write about tragedy: his mother committed
suicide on Mother’s Day while he was home on leave
during WWII; he was one of only seven American POW
survivors during the firebombing of Dresden; his sister,
Alice, died of cancer just days after her husband died in a
train accident; and Vonnegut himself attempted suicide on
at least one occasion. He managed, however, to blend his
bleak view of the world with a dry, sharp sense of humor
that continues to entertain and engage reading audiences
Pre- Reading
Individual Identity
Make a list of your individual strengths
and weaknesses.
How does the combination of strengths
and weaknesses contribute your their
unique and valuable identity. How does
this individuality help you connect and
contribute to your community.
 The theme of a piece of fiction is its
controlling idea or central insight—the
unifying generalization about life stated or
implied by the story. To derive the theme of a
story, determine what its central purpose is:
what view of life it supports or what insight
into life it reveals.
The Six Principles or Rules for
Stating the Theme include:
 1. Theme should be expressible in the form of
a statement with a subject and a predicate.
 2. The theme should be stated as a
generalization about life.
 3. Be careful not to make the generalization
larger than is justified by the story. Forego
absolutes: instead of everyone, all, always,
use terms like some, sometimes, etc.
Theme Cont…
 4. Theme is the central and unifying concept of a story.
Therefore (a) it accounts for all the major details of the
story, (b) is not contradicted any detail of the story, and
(c) cannot rely upon supposed facts—facts not actually
stated or clearly implied by the story.
 5. There is no one way of stating the theme of the story.
Every student states it differently.
 6. Avoid any statement that reduces the theme to some
familiar saying or cliché that we have heard all our lives,
such as “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Although
such a statement may express the theme accurately, too
often it is simply a lazy shortcut.
Sample Themes
This story addresses:
 individuality versus conformity
 self-determination versus forced
 governmental authority versus abuse of
Thesis Statements
 Read and annotate the handout on thesis
 As you read think about ways you can create
a meaningful thesis statement
Focused Reading
As you read Harrison Bergeron:
 Using annotation skills, write ideas
and thoughts in your journal.
 Question
 Predict
 Evaluate
 Look for clues to support possible
Reading-Processing your ideas
Developing Ideas and Class Discussion
Use the following questions as springboards to solutions. Answer
these questions in your workbook after you finish your reading:
 How do you think this society evolved? What conditions could have
facilitated such events? What similar conditions exist in our society?
Why do you think the citizens acquiesce to the decisions of the
Handicapper General? Would you? Why/Why not? What
responsibility does a government have in providing equality for its
Do " handicaps" really make people equal? Is equality really
possible? Why do we think it is such a lofty goal?
The handicaps destroy the individuality of those forced to wear
them. Can this be viewed as a good thing? How/When can
individuality and self-fulfillment become destructive forces?
" Fitting in" is sometimes viewed as a necessity. How can it become
a handicap? What can be done to prevent it from becoming one?
Harrison is killed. Is individuality worth dying for? Is fitting in?
Discussion leads to new ideas!
 Think-Write-Share
As a group discuss each of the questions you
have answered
Add your partners ideas to your notes
Be ready to share your ideas with the class (I
will be randomly selecting willing and nonwilling volunteers) NO HANDS UP 
 Write Analytical essay
 Must follow all LHS writing requirements…or I
will be very, very sad when I have to hand it
back with a “0”.
 Here is the sad face I will have
 Please so not make me sad!
 You will turn in your essay at the beginning of
the next class meeting. Please do not ask to
print in class or turn in late. You essay will
not be accepted.
Just For Fun
Kurt Vonnegut - Eight rules for Writing Fiction
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not
feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of
4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or
advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading
characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the
reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love
to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as
possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete
understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could
finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages
Essay Prompt
 Kurt Vonnegut's short story “Harrison
Bergeron” entices readers to question the
society around them. In well written essay
analyze a theme Vonnegut explores and how
this theme connects to our own society.