Resistance to Freedom: Comparing H. Bergeron and A&P
Resistance is liberal, leaping over all restraints to challenge the authority around people and to rebel against the established society. In John Updike’s short story A&P and Kurt Vonnegut’s fiction of story Harrison Bergeron, the authors, through the distinctive color of liberalism, create the protagonist’s provocation to rise against authority and consequently against society. John Updike’s seriously fun and Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian writing styles use different literary techniques to reflect the same theme — liberalism and ironic resistance to the social issue.
Both short stories display resistance in the name of freedom and individualism. Under the oppression of power and injustice, Sammy’s resignation and Harrison’s escape from prison show their strong individualism and thirst for freedom. Sammy says to Lengel, who is the manager of the store, “I quit” because he does not want to see the three girls judged by their choice of outfits. Similarly, the ruling government does everything possible to limit any advantage Harrison has. However, Harrison does not want to be controlled by total equality and curb his abilities. Whether in A&P or Harrison Bergeron, the protagonists ‘ experiences and performances are full of social discontent and struggle. Therefore, the audience can see that Sammy, under the pressure of Lengel, still says he will resign. Harrison escapes from prison in an attempt to overthrow the stable and powerful government. Throughout history, every revolution stems from the people’s strong sense of freedom and their unwillingness to be mistreated. Any compulsive or unfair social structure will be resisted by those who pursue freedom.
In John Updike’s A&P, the author uses figurative language to show the characterization of Sammy and bathing suits as symbols to describe the reality in the 1960s. In Sammy’s mind, “A couple of customers that had been heading for my slot begin to knock against each other, like scared pigs in a chute.” The simile is used in this passage. Sammy compares his customers to pigs, a sign of his unconscious contempt for them. In the short story, the author compares humans too stupid animals. He uses his seriously fun writing style to describe the cowardice and pedantry of some people in that era. This contrasts with Sammy’s inexplicable superiority and individualism. The trigger for the whole article is the way the girls dress. The bathing suits are a symbol to represent the defiance of social rules. In the background of the short story, this is the age of sexual liberation in America. Using these literary techniques, the author skillfully satirizes the rigid society in the United States before the 1960s. At the same time, the thought and behavior of young people in the short story lay the foreshadows for the liberation movement.
In Harrison Bergeron, the fictional anti-utopia of the future is depicted by Kurt Vonnegut using dark humor language. Diana and Harrison are symbols that display the oppression of the powerful and the fearlessness of resistance. The author uses an ironic tone to express the unfairness of an entirely equal society. During the government broadcast, “He finally gave up, handed the bullet to a ballerina to read.’ It is a joke that shows the audience that the news reporter who has barriers to speaking has to ask a ballerina to report the news. It seems to tell the audience that society is total equality, but this kind of equality is based on covering up the inability of people. Hence, Harrison and Diana as representatives of resistance and enforcement, as the symbols of the short story. “Harrison‘s scrap-iron handicaps crashed into the floor.” It means that Harrison breaks the enforced law and begins to seek his freedom. In the same way, although there are not many sentences describing Diana, it can be seen from her decisive attack on Harrison that she represents power politics. In the short story, the author uses a unique literary technique to express a strong desire for freedom and the resistance brought by complete equality in the fictional utopian world.
Both in the real society of the 1960s and the so-called fictional utopian society, the two authors express the theme of defying authority and resisting the community because of oppression. They use different symbols and figurative language to describe the two short stories. In A&P, Updike talks about the unfairness of society’s implicit rules toward women. Whereas Harrison Bergeron, the audience sees the danger and risk of total equality. And of course, these stories were extreme situations in both societies. People begin to rebel against society because of their intense pursuit of freedom and self. People who are liberal are not willing to suffer the oppression of the absolute authorities in the community.
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