So Perfect

February 7, 2010
By Allison Roth GOLD, Pound Ridge, New York
Allison Roth GOLD, Pound Ridge, New York
13 articles 0 photos 0 comments

In theory, there would be complete peace and prosperity if all problems relating to equality, health, and safety were eliminated. It might seem perfect if government had laws that ensured this, but The Giver by Lois Lowry and “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut convey important messages that reveal the many flaws underneath the surface of this theory.

One example that comes from The Giver shows that people are confined to a limited and constricting lifestyle when they are prevented from feeling emotions. The writer of this utopian novel creates a community that strives for perfection. The people in this community do this by thwarting humans’ abilities to have feelings, assigning equal jobs to all citizens, and creating strict rules pertaining to all aspects of society. On the surface, this seems perfect. However, the reader notices that there are many limitations and problems with the system underneath. For example, the citizens of the community cannot experience love or family. Christmas, music, and colors are unknown to them. Grandparents are not existent because of “release” at a certain age. Family units consist of two parents and two children. The community is inhibited and restrained to a boring life lacking joy, love, and family. The novel conveys the message that people cannot live and grow to maximum happiness and success without experiencing a full range of emotions; the lives of the people are restricted and thwarted.

Another example comes from a theme in The Giver pertaining to the disadvantages of “release” instead of death. In the “perfect” community created in this book, the citizens are never exposed to pain. When one is injured, the citizen immediately takes a pill that eliminates all pain in the body. There is also no war or death. Instead, there is something called “release” where a citizen is sent Elsewhere when he becomes a certain age as an elder or breaks the rules. Since the elderly are released before they become ill, everyone is equal in health and safety. In the community, only the Giver and the Receiver know that "release" replaces death. When Jonas the Receiver finds out that one identical twin was released because of its size, he becomes deeply saddened. Although he wishes to inform everyone about it, he cannot because of his restrictions. This shows that the ups and downs of life, such as pain and unfairness, are preferable to a life of “sameness.” This is because the Receiver knows that if the citizens knew the depressing truth behind "release", they would cherish and appreciate birth and life.

The last example is portrayed in the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut and is another theme from The Giver. The community in The Giver and the society of 2081 in “Harrison Bergeron” are constantly wanting perfection and making everyone the same and equal. In the short story, people who are considered to be more intelligent, agile, handsome, or pretty are given handicaps. These handicaps are buzzing radios planted in one’s ear to prevent higher level thinking, ugly masks to hide one’s true beauty, and heavy items attached to hinder movement. In The Giver, citizens are given jobs based on their abilities and special attributes. All jobs are equal and have no salaries. These policies are thought to make everyone equal. However, they are actually impeding and restricting their societies and causing imperfections because more intelligent people cannot take power and succeed.

Another society seeking perfection appears in Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, where Harrison Bergeron is a genius. He is jailed and given many handicaps because of his amazing intelligence and ingenuity. When he escapes and breaks the rules by taking off his handicaps and undermining the ideas of the government, he is shot to death. This is not a perfect situation; death is not perfect, pain is not perfect. Also, the society is killing one of their only ways to succeed and improve. If Bergeron is not killed and given freedom to state his opinion, the society can progress. He knows that the government’s ideas are not the perfect way to live. A message is portrayed such that perfection and the pursuit of perfection are not possible.

In conclusion, government and society should not have laws that guarantee complete health, safety, and equal treatment. This is proven to fail in three different examples from literature. In fact, these examples show that striving for these goals actually creates many more deficiencies and inadequacies than there would be if everyone was left alone and allowed to succeed to their best ability. Lowry and Vonnegut show that the result is a society that is stagnant, where there is no room for creativity, innovation, or improvement.

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