In "Harrison Bergeron," why does the ballerina wear handicap bags "as heavy as those worn by two-hundred pound men?"

1 Answer | Add Yours

belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The ballerina who reads Harrison's escape bulletin is hinted to be the same one who Harrison chooses as his Empress. She is strong and graceful, more so than any other woman, and her mask is "hideous." Since she has unfair advantages in her looks, strength, and voice, she is heavily handicapped so nobody will feel inferior in comparison.

She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.
(Vonnegut, "Harrison Bergeron,"

Her voice is "luminous" and when she (if it is she) removes her handicaps, she is shown to be more beautiful than anyone. Her handicaps are preventing her from reaching her true potential, as intended by the handicap laws; nobody can be better than anyone else, and so her abilities are negated to keep her "average." If she is the same ballerina, then her true potential was truly extraordinary, because as soon as she removes the handicaps she is able to fly alongside Harrison.


We’ve answered 317,512 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question