In both Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s ‘Harrison Bergeron’ and Stuart Mclean’s ‘Emil”, I read the prominence of compassion and it’s essential influence on development, productivity, and the formation of healthy relationships. The two stories present opposites on the spectrum of compassion. ‘Harrison Bergeron’ is a somewhat exaggerated representation of the potential result when people are not capable of showing compassion. Under the influence of “mental handicap[s]’(1), those naturally capable of thought and potentially compassion are censored, depriving them and the society as a whole of relationships with any meaning. No relationship is created between Harrison and his parents, and his outburst at the studio; “I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!”(3) may be the result of his high-functioning brain seeking recognition after 14 years without compassion from his parents. Conflicts can be avoided when simple, empathetic gestures are integrated into the life of any person, vulnerable or otherwise.  In ‘Harrison Bergeron’, there is no room in society for ‘otherness’.


Within ‘Emil’, Morley takes steps to humanize Emil, regardless of that otherness he possesses in comparison to her and her family. Past the quick judgements of her close circle, Morley aspires to take time with the capacity she does have to consider Emil and be compassionate towards him. Although it may be a gesture not obvious to her family, Morley has considered and expressed her feeling that “You can’t expect [someone] to listen to you if you don’t even know [their] name,”(111). Building this relationship with a homeless person has allowed Morley to open herself and introduce her family to a greater sense of inclusion for others. Both narratives express how otherness can be overwhelming and in many ways frightening. With two different views on the matter, Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s ‘Harrison Bergeron’ and Stuart Mclean’s ‘Emil” demonstrate how shallow thoughts can block connections and prevent channels for impactful empathy.