Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1922–2007) was born and raised in Indianapolis and later left college to enlist in the US Army during World War II. He spent time as a German prisoner of war and won a Purple Heart, a distinction he later mocked. After the war, he worked as a newspaper reporter and in public relations before selling his first story to Collier’smagazine in 1950. Shortly thereafter, he quit his regular job and embarked on a literary career, taking part-time jobs to pay the bills. Only with the publication, eighteen years later, of his second collection of stories, Welcome to the Monkey House did he gain some positive critical attention. A year later his autobiographical novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, made him a literary celebrity, a status he held for the rest of his life. Vonnegut was politically active in many liberal-left political causes, giving numerous speeches on political issues of the day: He was, among other things, an ardent defender of free speech, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, and an advocate of socialism. His political views sometimes made it into his stories, which often combined science fiction, satire, and dark humor. 

Harrison Bergeron

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
In this satirical story (1961), set in a future time in which “everybody was finally equal . . . every which way,” Kurt Vonnegut Jr. challenges our devotion to equality and invites us to consider the costs of pursuing it too zealously. Although the story is not explicitly about racial, ethnic, or gender equality, the questions it provokes about the kind of equality we should want, and the costs of pursuing it, are relevant also to campaigns to eliminate inequalities among racial and ethnic groups or between the sexes.