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The world history and world literature share one thing in common as they both contain stories about heroes and inspirational leaders who make their societies change and evolve. These remarkable individuals have their own ideals and ideas, their specific tools and strategies to achieve their goals, as well as some challenges they have to face. It is possible to trace some of the major similarities and differences between Harrison Bergeron and Malcolm X, who are both often referred to as revolutionaries.
First, it is necessary to consider some facts concerning these two figures. Harrison Bergeron was the protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story by the same name. Harrison was the man who was not afraid to stand up to the existing social order and makes some steps to achieve his major goal, which was to make all people free from burdens that had been imposed by the government (Vonnegut 8). Malcolm X was one of the iconic figures during the Civil Rights Movement who fought for the rights of African Americans in American society (Tyner 2).
Thus, the primary similarity between the two leaders is their intention to change society and make it truly just. Moreover, they both fought for the destruction of various burdens people had to endure. In Harrison’s case, those were actual burdens people had to carry if they were smarter, stronger, or more beautiful, and so on (Vonnegut 7). It is noteworthy that some argue that Harrison fought for true freedom and creativity in the art (Bates).
However, even these people still admit that the political sphere has certain effects on the development of art and culture. In the case of Malcolm X, this leader fought against burdens that prevented African Americans from obtaining proper education, employment, life.
Another similarity is associated with the methods they used. Violence was the tool they had to utilize. Harrison did not kill anybody (at least, this was not mentioned explicitly). However, he interrupted a program and used force to make people do what he wanted. Malcolm X also saw violence as the necessary measure, although he admitted it was the last-resort step in each case (Tyner 99). At that, Malcolm X did not actually use violence in his life, although he committed a crime and was convicted of burglary (Tyner 23). However, his ideas to use “any means necessary” to achieve his goals made many people think that he was inciting African Americans to revolt.
One more similarity is also related to the means of their fight. These two individuals employed mass media (television, to be more precise) to convey their ideas and draw people’s attention. As has been mentioned above, Harrison claimed his power during the program that was broadcast and viewed by millions (Vonnegut 11). Malcolm X often attended radio programs where he expressed his ideas, shared his views, and called for action (Tyner 78). He also participated in numerous activities (marches, meetings, demonstrations, and so on) that appeared on the news.
Finally, Malcolm X and Harrison faced quite similar challenges as one of the biggest obstacles they both had to address people’s indifference or inactivity that was caused by certain unnatural obstacles. In Vonnegut’s short story, the obstacles were specific electronic devices that prevented people from thinking critically or take, as it was believed in the society, to put “unfair advantage of their brains” (Vonnegut 7).
Malcolm X also had to face numerous people’s indifference, but it was caused by bias, prejudice, beliefs, and traditions that existed during that period. White America thought that African Americans were inferior and had to live or rather exist within certain boundaries, while some African Americans (including Malcolm X at some periods of his life) believed in their supremacy over the white race (Tyner 58). Those who could think critically kept silence due to fears, their focus on their own problems, etc.
However, there is possible to consider a significant difference between the two leaders. This difference is associated with the goals they managed to accomplish. Malcolm X was more successful as he was more active and pragmatic. For instance, Harrison claimed himself to be an emperor, chose his empress, and started enjoying his metaphorical power (Vonnegut 14). He did not make anyone’s life better. He barely affected several people’s lives during a minute or two. Unlike Harrison, Malcolm X inspired thousands and even millions through his talks, preaching, writings, etc. He became a member of some organizations and met numerous politicians and political activists. He actually made a difference and managed to restore justice in some cases helping some African Americans (Tyner 144).
In conclusion, it is possible to note that Harrison and Malcolm X were two leaders who tried to make the world better and their societies truly just. They had to face people’s indifference and inability or unwillingness to understand. They also acknowledged the power of mass media. However, the two leaders’ actions were not the same and had different results. Malcolm X was more pragmatic while Harrison was idealistic and simply claimed his powers instead of trying to actually do something to overthrow the existing government and make people’s lives better.
It is also noteworthy that both Malcolm X and Harrison were killed, which shows their societies’ unpreparedness for change. However, unlike Harrison, Malcolm X contributed to the development of his society as the United States became a better place to live for people of different races and ethnicities.
Bates, Robin. “Liberals Must Reclaim Harrison Bergeron.” Better Living Through Beowulf. 2015. Web.
Tyner, James. The Geography of Malcolm X: Black Radicalism and the Remaking of American Space. Routledge, 2013.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Welcome to the Monkey House: A Collection of Short Works. Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, 2014.