The short stories Girl by Jamaica Kincaid and Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. focus on the themes of equality, although at different times and settings.
Girl talks about inequality from the author’s point of view, which can be assumed to be based on her experience, while Harrison Bergeron talks about how the author perceives – from a third person point of view – an egalitarian world in the future where Americans’ perception of equality is achieved
Girl was set in the second half of the 20th century, somewhere in the Caribbean presumably. It is about a dialogue between a mother and daughter where the mother is giving her daughter a lecture on how to conduct herself as a woman. On the other hand, Harrison Bergeron was set in a typical American society during the late 21st century. In this story’s setting, the world has achieved equality in that no one is allowed to be smarter, more beautiful, or stronger than the other. People are made to wear handicaps to keep them from thinking and using their strength and they also wear masks to hide their beauty and make them just as average-looking as everyone else. In this world, failure to abide by these rules of equality is punishable by law.
Comparison and Contrast
The story Girl uses the first person point of view where the girl (the main character) recalls or relives her mother’s many lectures about how she should live her life. Although there is no narrator in the story, I think that the story is told from the girl’s perspective, based on how she remembers her mother’s many reprimands and instructions. She says, “but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school” (Kincaid). The use of the pronouns I and me in the girl’s statements depict the first person, and although the mother uses you, which is the second person, this is still from the girl’s point of view where she remembers how her mother talked to her.
I think the author chose this point of view because the story must be based on her own experience where she was the girl in the story and she wrote about the things that her mother had told her in the way that she remembered them. I find this to be an effective approach because although the story is mainly told from the first person point of view, the use of the second person in the mother’s statements made me feel like the mother was talking to me, which made me feel how the girl in the story might have felt – annoyed, exasperated, or a feeling of wanting to roll my eyes.
The story Harrison Bergeron, on the other hand, is told from the third person point of view. The author acts as an observer where he is able to see and feel what goes on with the characters of the story. For example, the author observes what Hazel and George are doing as they watch TV or how George’s thoughts are interrupted by the shrill sounds that come from his handicap.
I think that Vonnegut chose the third person point of view in order to provide
the reader with the big picture of what was going on in the story. I think that it was effective because it helped the reader understand what was going on in the story, why they were happening, and how the characters felt. With the author providing a lot of background information, as well as information about the character’s thoughts, I was able to understand the context of the story and develop an appreciation of it.
In terms of the stories’ theme of equality, the things that the mother in Girl was teaching her daughter to do or not to do as a woman clearly depicted gender differences and inequalities in society. On the other hand, a seeming sense of equality has been achieved in Harrison Bergeron. However, I think that there is a false sense of equality as people are not allowed to be who they are. The sense of equality in this story was taken literally and did not take reality into account, which is that every person is different and that these should be celebrated and not repressed.
The story Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is told from a first person point of view whereas Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is told from a third person point of view. While both stories delve on the theme of equality, Girl depicts a struggle against gender inequality whereas Harrison Bergeron depicts a submission to a false sense of equality.
Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.” fphil.uniba.sk. Comenius University in Bratislava, 2006. Web.
18 Sept. 2012
< http://www.fphil.uniba.sk/fileadmin/user_upload/editors/kaa/Ivan_Lacko/ Kincaid_Girl.pdf>
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. “Harrison Bergeron.” nexuslearning.net. Nexus, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2012
< http://www.nexuslearning.net/books/holt_elementsoflit- 3/Collection%204/Collection%202/Harrison%20Bergeron%20p1.htm>