Harrison Bergeron Summary

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

The short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., takes place in the home of Hazel and George Bergeron in the year 2081. At this time they have passed the 213th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in an effort to try to make everyone equal. In April the Bergerons' son Harrison, who was fourteen-years-old, was taken away by H-G men to prison. This event was sad, but his parents did not dwell on it. His mother Hazel possessed perfectly average intelligence, which only allowed her to think about things in short bursts. His father, George, possessing higher intelligence, was required by law to wear a mental handicap radio in his ear at all times. Every twenty seconds or so he would hear a sharp noise that would keep him from maintaining focus on anything for too long.

The couple was sitting and watching ballerinas on television. Some of the dancers had weights tied to them or masked faces because they were too graceful or too beautiful. Two of them wore the radios in their ears and when George heard the sound of a milk bottle being hit with a hammer, they winced too. The Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers, picked the sounds that they heard.

Hazel noted that George looked tired and suggested he take off the sacks of lead balls that were padlocked to his neck to rest for awhile. George knew the punishment was two years in prison and two thousand dollars for every ball he took out, so he declined. He knew they were necessary to keep everyone in society from competing the way they had decades ago.

All of the sudden a news bulletin interrupted the television show. An announcer with a speech impediment attempted to read it, but finally a ballerina jumped in to help. She apologized for the sweet sound of her voice and announced that Harrison Bergeron had escaped from jail. A police photograph flashed on the screen showing that he was seven feet tall. He was covered with more hindrances than anyone had ever seen, including huge headphones, thick glasses with wavy lenses, scrap metal hanging from him, shaved eyebrows, capped teeth, and a red rubber nose.

They heard a door being torn from its hinges, and the picture was replaced by the real Harrison filling the screen. He stood in the center of the studio and declared himself the emperor. He tore off his handicaps and said he would choose an empress. A ballerina stood, and he removed her mask to reveal her striking beauty. He asked the musicians to play so that they could show the audience what real dancing looked like. He had to help the musicians to find the tempo, but then he took his partner and they danced around the room, ending with a passionate kiss.

At that moment Diana Moon Glampers entered the studio with a double-barreled shotgun. The emperor and empress were dead before they hit the floor. She aimed the gun at the musicians and told them to put their handicaps back on. At that point the Bergerons' television burned out. Hazel turned to say something to George, but he had gone to the kitchen for a beer. George returned and noticed that Hazel had been crying. He asked why, and she said there was something real sad on television, but she forgot what it was. He told her to forget it just as a gunshot sounded in his radio, which Hazel could tell had shaken him up quite a bit.

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