Hazel Bergeron is described as being "perfectly average" in intelligence. This description implies that she cannot ponder anything because her thought processes are shallow. She cannot recall much, and her attention span is very short. When, for instance, she views the television, Hazel forgets what she has seen almost instantly. On the other hand, George Bergeron is innately highly intelligent. Consequently, he is required to always wear in his ear a "little mental-handicap radio." This radio is tuned to a government transmitter that sends sharp noises into his ear "to prevent him from taking unfair advantage of his brain."
Hazel and George Bergeron lead lives that are entirely controlled by their government. They have had to surrender their civil rights. Their genius son Harrison has been imprisoned for plotting to overthrow the government. Harrison is later killed when he breaks out of prison and tries to take over the television station. Due to the oppressive government's demand that everyone be "equal every which way," those who are better-looking, stronger, more athletic, more graceful, more talented, more intelligent, more artistic, or more of any quality that makes them superior to others are forced to become "average," a condition which is non-threatening to the government.
While Hazel is too dull to know what she misses, her husband George lives a burdensome and painful life. His handicaps prevent him from using his intelligent mind and sturdy body: his body is weighed down with birdshot, while his head rings from the shrill and irritating noises sent through his mental-handicap radio. Never is he allowed to be creative or analytical. He cannot express ideas of any complexity or enjoy anything genuinely pleasurable to him. George's son was taken from his home and shot—all because Harrison rebelled against governmental oppression. George's life is one of tragic subjection, deprivation, and physical torture.