Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron book cover
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Describe the character of Harrison Bergeron in terms of both his physical qualities and personality traits.

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There is something unrealistic, it should be noted, at the heart of Harrison Bergeron's character: everything about him is larger than life. He is only fourteen years old, and yet he is already an enemy of the state—seven feet tall with superhuman strength, genius-level intellect, and the grace and coordination of a trained ballet dancer. Much like the world he inhabits, he pushes the limits of plausibility (and that may be entirely the point).

In this story, Vonnegut crafts a world in which the ideal of equality has been pushed beyond all rational limits, in which those who exhibit above average or exceptional ability must handicap themselves so that they would no longer stand out from anybody else. It is a society that would impose mediocrity through the government's monopoly of force. Harrison (on the other hand), with his almost superhuman abilities, is the absolute antithesis of everything this society values and represents. In taking over the television studio and dancing with the ballerina, he is engaged in a significant act of rebellion against the State (and for that act, he is executed at the end of the story).

In terms of personality traits, one of the most extraordinary factors to keep in mind is his age: he's only fourteen years old, and yet he's already engaged in an act of political resistance, and has a coherent political ideology which he espouses. At the same time, he displays fearlessness in his willingness to defy this imagined United States of the year 2081 and no small degree of brashness in how he goes about doing so.

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