by Kurt Vonnegut
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
When Jim Carrey puts on a mask, he gets superpowers. But not in 2081.
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In 2081, beautiful women have to wear masks to hide their radiance. We're not sure if this applies to handsome men, too, but we do know that no one is getting super shape-shifting powers from these masks. They're just another way the future government micro-manages its people and regulates them into submission.
Of course, in a way this backfires: you can tell how pretty someone is by how ugly their mask is. That's how we know that the announcer-ballerina is "extraordinarily beautiful," because "the mask she wore was hideous." Equality? Hm. Wouldn't real equality come from making everyone wear the same mask? Or just making everyone cover their faces?
And another thing to note is that Hazel "bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General" (16). Okay, so Hazel doesn't have to wear a mask—and neither does Diana Moon Glampers. Could the whole mask thing just be Diana Moon Glampers's petty retaliation against beauty? We're definitely getting the sense that there's something vindictive about these handicaps.
Which leads us to a final question: in the world of "Harrison Bergeron," would it be better to be beautiful and masked—or plain and unmasked?