Comparison of “The Lottery” and “Harrison Bergeron”

Categories: Harrison Bergeron

Too often, people are not aware that they are conforming to ideas that are regarded as “normal” in their societies. People perform or practice certain traditions and actions not because they deliberately chose it, but because others do it. In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, both authors use setting and symbolism throughout their stories to advocate how blindly following inequitable traditions or Laws could result in a loss of individual rights. Vonnegut further explains how ultimately, for people to express themselves truly and have the ability to grow, a revolution led by selfless critical thinkers is needed beacause it is the only way to break the unjust traditions and laws forced upon people.

In both stories, the setting establishes an atmosphere that makes it seem that everything that happens in both stories are regarded as normal when they truly are not. Primarily in The Lottery, the villagers treated the lottery as something they have to do.

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The setting is based on “[a clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full summer day]” where “The people of the village began to gather in the square... [some towns had many people that the lottery takes two days to be finished, but in this village, there were only about 300 people so the lottery takes less than two hours.]” ( Jackson 1). This implies that they must have done this in the past as they know how long the lottery takes. Even beforehand, there were people who gathered stones before the inhumane ritual took place.

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It’s very disturbing how they knew what was going to happen, but they still chose to collect the rocks to prepare for the ritual. Thus, results in the continuation of this unjust tradition. Also in Harrison Bergeron, the short story captures this satirical setting in 2081 where everyone is “equal”. This sets the idea that “nobody was smarter than anybody else… nobody was stronger than anybody else.” (Vonnegut 1). This limits the creativity and the potential people have thus ultimately been taking away a part of their rights. Both stories ultimately reveal that with both of their environments enforcing these unjust traditions and laws, no person has questioned the tradition/law for a long time thus resulted in a loss of their rights. However, in Harrison Bergeron, the author expands upon the concept of revolution through Harrison himself. In this scenario, he was in a theater room with ballet dancers, musicians, and civilians. Harrison takes off his handicaps, he encouraged people to follow him. It only took one man to spark a flame inside in people’s hearts but to keep the flame going, other people must step up and stand firm in their cause. Thus, shows that if people are selfless and not afraid to make the right decision, then they can start a change in their society to reclaim their rights.

Shirley Jackson and Kurt Vonnegut also utilize Symbolism throughout the book to highlight the dilemma people face regarding conforming to traditions and laws. In the Lottery, the villagers use the black box as a way of means to randomly pick a villager name and kill whoever gets the black dot. That shabby black box is a representation of their tradition in the lottery and their unwillingness to make a change. The black box is already on the verge of collapsing, but no person is willing to step up as “there has always been a lottery” (Jackson 4). When Mr. Summers asked to help to carry the black box, “[the two men who helped him showed hesitation at first]” (Jackson 2). Implying that the black box had something frightening about it. The presence of the black box itself causes fear towards people as it carries the fate of every villager on that day. This signify’s that the villagers themselves know that the tradition they partake in is immoral, but no action was still being taken. It was already proven true that this village could’ve stopped doing their tradition as other villagers have stopped doing the lottery but some people are still unwilling to change. They’ve performed the ritual many times now and

with no one brave enough to question the tradition, the cycle of fear continues. In Harrison Bergeron, the scenario was somewhat similar. No one dared to oppose the government and their idea of “equality” except Harrison himself. However, just like Harrison, every person had a handicap. The handicaps are the real representation of the limitations of the laws placed upon individuals that prevent them from fully becoming to what they dreamed. Like Harrison’s dad, he “had a little mental handicap radio in his ear” (Vonnegut 1) that prevented him from fully using his intelligence. The same scenario happened to other citizens; wether it be a physical handicap or a mental handicap. Later in the story, Harrison attempted to start a revolution, but failed to do so as he dies. Even so, Harrison represented what society should be without the handicaps limiting them from fully becoming the person they can be. Overall, Harrison influenced others to take of their handicaps and this signifies how it really takes only one person to spark an idea inside a person’s heart, but it really takes a group of people to actually make the idea come true. And then, change will happen.

The way people act or perform certain actions may have been influenced and conformed by social norms/standards. In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, both authors utilize setting and symbolism in their stories to suggest how blindly following unjust traditions or laws could lead to a loss of individual rights. Furthermore, Vonnegut explains how only through a revolution led by critical thinkers can people reclaim their individual rights. For people to truly grow in their own way and be able to express themselves, they must stand firm on what they believe is just. After all, according to John F Kennedy, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Comparison of “The Lottery” and “Harrison Bergeron”. (2021, Aug 04). Retrieved from

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