Harrison Bergeron" is a satirical and dystopian science-fiction short story written by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and first published in October 1961. Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the story was republished in the author's Welcome to the Monkey House collection in 1968. The satire raises a serious question concerning desirability of social equality and the extent to which society is prepared to go to achieve it. Plot summary
It is the year 2081. Because of Amendments to the Constitution, every American is fully equal, meaning that no one is smarter, better-looking, stronger, or faster than anyone else. The Handicapper General and a team of agents ensure that the laws of equality are enforced. The government forces citizens to wear "handicaps" . One April, 14 year old Harrison Bergeron, an extremely handsome teenage genius, is taken away from his parents, George and Hazel, by the government. George and Hazel are not fully aware of the tragedy. Hazel's lack of awareness is due to "average" intelligence, which in 2081, is the politically correct way of referring to someone of well-below-average intelligence. George does not comprehend the tragedy since the law requires him to wear the radio ear piece for twenty-four hours a day because he is of above-average intelligence. Hazel and George are watching a ballet on TV. Hazel has been crying, though she cannot remember why. She remarks on the beauty of the dance. For a few moments, George reflects on the dancers, who are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to cover up their good looks. They have been handicapped so that TV viewers will not feel bad about their own appearance and hence will feel equally as talented and good-looking. Because of their handicaps, the dancers are not very good. A noise interrupts George's thoughts: two of the dancers onscreen hear the noise, too; apparently, they must wear radios as well. Hazel thinks George looks exhausted and urges him to lie down and rest his "handicap bag", of weight placed in a bag and locked around George's neck. He says he hardly notices the weight any more. Hazel suggests taking a few of the weights out of the bag, but he says if everyone broke the law, society would return to its old competitive ways. Hazel says she would hate that. A noise interrupts the conversation, and George cannot remember what they were talking about. On TV, a news reporter with a speech impediment attempts to read a bulletin. After 30 seconds, unable to even say "Ladies and Gentlemen", he hands the bulletin to a ballerina to read. Hazel commends him for working with his God-given abilities and says he should get a raise for trying so hard. The ballerina, wearing the most grotesque mask of all, and with weights meant for a male, begins reading in her natural, beautiful voice, then apologizes and switches to a growly voice so that she will not sound nicer than anyone else. The bulletin says that Harrison has escaped from prison. A photo of Harrison appears on the screen. He is wearing the handicaps meant to counteract his strength, intelligence, and good looks. The photo shows that he is tall and covered in of metal. He is wearing huge earphones, rather than a small radio, and big glasses meant to blind him and give him headaches. He is also wearing a red rubber nose and black caps over his teeth. His eyebrows are shaved off. After a rumbling noise, the photo on the Bergerons' TV screen is replaced with an image of Harrison himself, who has stormed the studio. In an attempt to overthrow the government and its handicapping systems, he says that he is the emperor, the greatest ruler in history, and that everyone must obey him. Then he rips off all of his handicaps. He says that the first woman brave enough to stand up will be his empress. A ballerina, presumably the one who reads the report, rises to her feet. Harrison removes her handicaps and mask, revealing a blindingly beautiful woman. He orders...
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