Harrison Bergeron

Bergeron by
Kurt Vonnegut
 Absolute
Equality Suppresses Individuality
 The hypocrisy of a utopian society and
the danger of total equality.
Plot Outline
2081; 211, 212, and 213 Amendments have ensured
that every American is finally equal due to the work
of the Handicapper General.
While watching a ballet performance on TV, the
performance is interrupted by the arrival of Harrison
Bergeron. Harrison had been taken from his home at
the age of 14, but had just escaped from prison.
He declares himself the emperor, finds a mate in a
beautiful, brave ballerina and they begin to dance.
However, the Handicapper General shoots them
down and the TV screen goes blank.
Hazel vaguely remembers what just occurred but
feels sad; George tells her to forget and be happy.
Important Quotes
“It’s all kind, of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.
“Forget sad things,” said George. “I always do,”
said Hazel.
The society has been brainwashed and lost its
individual thought. Rather than face emotions,
they suppress and ignore them. Hazel can’t even
remember the cruel death of her only child.
“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then
other people’d get away with it, and pretty soon
we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with
everybody competing against everybody else…”
Harrison Bergeron:
Represents individualism and rebellion
Confident, arrogant, defiant, charismatic,
“I am the Emperor!”
“Even as I stand here-” he bellowed, “crippled,
hobbled, sickened- I am the greatest ruler than
any man who ever lived!”
“…a man that would have awed Thor, the god of
However, he is murdered in the end; symbolic of
hope and individualism dying out.
The handicaps
- Represent the barrier from individuality which make free thought
or action impossible. They are the limitations imposed on by
society, which constrict the people to being one certain way.
Adding handicaps helps enforce the homogeny in society. By
making handicaps customary, society becomes accustomed, or
scared into by consequences, into making no effort to display
their individuality.
o HG men
- Are representative of control and repression, they are the
enforcers of equality. These men are the ones who supervise that
the laws for maintaining absolute equality are adhered to, and
decide what and how many handicaps are to be placed upon a
person in order for that to happen. They make sure that
individuality is suppressed at any cost.
Symbolism (continued)
 Harrison
 -He
is symbolic of defiance, individuality,
and strength. Although he starts up
chained up and burdened with multiple
handicaps, he fights to break free from
them, symbolizing the eventual
breakthrough of individuality. Absolute
equality is not part of human nature, and
so if repressed is suffocating.
“wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and
spectacles with thick wavy lenses”
“red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows
shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with
black caps at snaggle-tooth random”
“Harrison looks like a walking junkyard.”
Harrison is forced to wear heavy amounts of
handicaps in order to fit into the “equal mold” of
the rest of society. He is extremely strong,
intelligent, and attractive but in society’s strive
toward absolute equality, he is unable to express
his attributes and freely display his individuality.
Imagery (continued)
“sound of a riveting gun in his head
“she must have been extraordinarily beautiful
because the mask she wore was hideous”
If people have any outstanding attribute, whether
physical or mental, the H-G men make sure to
impede their display of them. By periodically emitting
beeping noises from George’s earpiece, they are
able to prevent the formation of any individual
thought and by making the ballerina wear a hideous
mask, they are able to repress her resplendent and
unique beauty. In society’s efforts to achieve
complete equality, they eliminate the expression of
The entire idea of “Harrison Bergeron” is filled with irony. The
first ironic thing is that the society discourages favorable
attributes and encourages mediocrity. This idea is completely
ludicrous in terms of the real world and science, in which the
processes of evolution and natural selection have taught us
that favorable traits will persevere through generations while
unfavorable attributes will disappear in a species because of
the dying off of the carriers of the unfavorable traits. Also ironic
is the fact that the ones that are in charge of controlling who is
handicapped in the society are the ones that do not wear
handicaps themselves as they are the ones who are average.

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