The Fixation on Conformity: A Perspective of Egalitarianism in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies Series and Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"

Rachael Carmichael Ball State University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Vanessa Rapatz Ball State University
In utopian and dystopian fiction, societies tend to fixate on conformity. In order to create a sense of egalitarian unity, such societies exert total control to paint a dystopia as a utopia. The scheme of creating total equality benefits some while it hinders others, breaking the illusion that complete equality is achievable. A comparison of Kurt Vonnegut’s "Harrison Bergeron" and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series illuminates how involuntary equality impedes human rights. Alienating such rights destroys the foundations of utopian equality. In "Harrison Bergeron," the critique of conformity comes in the form of enforced equality through the possession of handicaps, e.g., carrying weights if you’re strong, wearing masks if you’re beautiful, etc. This short story then becomes a productive lens to examine Westerfeld’s series with its focus on beauty and lack of individualism. Putting the works of Vonnegut and Westerfeld into conversation allows us to explore the significance of hope, even when efforts seem futile. In order to mold ourselves into people who don’t give up fighting for what is right, we have to first recognize what is wrong. While the character Harrison is the physical manifestation of the ideal person who defies toxic laws of a dystopian society, Tally from Uglies appears as a more familiar, three-dimensional character in whom young adult audiences can relate. Her narrative trajectory relies less on Bergeron’s spectacle and more clearly delineates the difficult decisions and dynamic processes inherent in transitioning from childhood to adulthood.
English Literature & Creative Writing
Oral Presentation

When & Where

09:45 AM
Jordan Hall 303