The short stories “Harrison Bergeron”, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. , and “Ashes for the Wind”, by Hernando Tellez, the atrocities of a dictatorship government are displayed as part of the central external conflict. Whether the story is conveyed via more serious, non-fiction-like means, such as the sad tale of a struggling family in Colombia, in “Ashes for the Wind”, or a more outlandish counterpart, in “Harrison Bergeron”, a corrupt government ultimately causes more problems to arise.
Setting aside the obvious differences in the characters, plot, and setting, we see an essential element in the conflict of both stories – the protagonist defies the government, and must face the repercussions. The two short stories possess vague similarities, as both authors put an emphasis on their negative views on totalitarianism. Both protagonists Juan Martinez and Harrison Bergeron defy the government in some way, and later are punished for their acts. In “Ashes for the Wind”, Juan is threatened to leave his home for voting against the current government at the previous election.
Juan justifies himself with the fact that there was “no hard feelings” in voting against them, and “there always had to be a winner and a loser”, underestimating the government’s power. (Pg. 16) Instead, Juan would rather be killed that leave his household, showing doubt that the government will actually eradicate them. In “Harrison Bergeron”, Harrison also underestimates the power of the government, and appears publicly proclaiming that he was “the Emperor” and “a greater ruler than any man who ever lived”. (Pg. 79) He then proceeds to dance with no regard of the government’s powers whatsoever. In the end, Harrison suffers for his ignorance, when a government official, “Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General” intruded their dance and killed him and his partner “before they hit the floor” (Pg. 181).
Awakening the Zombies "Everybody was finally equal. They were not only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else." This is a short, but powerful excerpt from the short story Harrison Bergeron. Not only does it make you wonder why everyone is equal ...
In a similar case, the government kills Juan for his stubbornness in not abiding to their requests. As reported by the corrupt policeman, Juan “locked the doors and stayed in the house” dying in the fires along with his home.
Already establishing that both short stories exhibit distaste for dictatorship, there are several noticeable differences in how the Tellez and Vonnegut present their ideas. Vonnegut includes quite outlandish ideas in his short story. “Harrison Bergeron” begins by citing the “211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution” as finally making every citizen “equal in every which way”. It is common knowledge that only 27 amendments were approved since US Constitution went into effect; it is not likely that there will be 190 amendments between now and 2081.
Vonnegut’s humor is more blatantly expressed by his decision on the name for the Handicap General, Diana Moon Glampers, is silly to read and sillier spoken out loud. The image of anyone with such a name occupying a position of high responsibility to every citizen is ridiculous. Vonnegut mocks the dictatorship government with a message of a ridiculous leader and a selfish regime. A government would purposely set out to create handicaps for its citizens. In “Ashes for the Wind”, Tellez expresses his disfavor for absolutism through a more serious and realistic-like means.
His short story of Juan and his family’s struggles are quite realistic indeed. Policemen prowled the streets in search for “those who are resisting” the government (Pg. 16), and the threat of Juan’s home being burned down was very real. Tellez’s short story is more tragic than entertaining, and exposed a more sickening perspective of how a corrupt government is. Juan and his family were burned down along with the house only because the policemen had “no time to waste”. (Pg. 18)
The short stories "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Mocomber" were both written by world renowned author Ernest Hemingway. The two stories are written completely unrelated to each other; however, both stories have vast similarities in the time and place in which they take place. Hemingway is a writer that is very methodical in his word choices. When reading these two ...
All in all, despite the difference in setting, plot, characters, the short stories “Ashes for the Wind” and “Harrison Bergeron” both clearly outline the evils of absolutism. Through Vonnegut’s comical perspective and Tellez’s tragic storytelling, we catch a glimpse of the unnecessary force governments go though to achieve loyalty from its citizens. Whether it be handicapping every one to achieve equality, or removing opposition regardless of how immoral, both authors use there respective methods of story-telling to relay their messag