Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron book cover
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In "Harrison Bergeron" how do Hazel and George react to the televised murder of their son?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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George and Hazel struggle to appreciate the dancing ballerinas that they are watching on the television and fail to comprehend their son's rebellious act. George, who is extremely intelligent, is forced to wear headphones that make loud noises every twenty seconds in order to interrupt his thoughts. George's wife, Hazel, can only think of things in short bursts, which means she cannot truly understand or comprehend the significance of her son on the television screen.

When Harrison's picture is initially shown on the screen, George recognizes his son but immediately forgets what he is watching after a loud sound goes off in his head. Harrison then enters the television studio and declares himself the emperor. He then strips away his massive handicaps and leaps into the air and kisses a ballerina. After Diana Moon Glampers kills Harrison, George walks back from the kitchen with a beer in his hand, and Hazel notices that he's been crying. Unfortunately, George cannot recall why he's been crying. When Hazel asks what caused him to cry, George responds by saying, "Something real sad on television" (Vonnegut, 6).

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Because of the handicaps that George has, his reaction to his son's murder is brief, and because of Hazel's "low" intelligence and short attention span, hers is also underwhelming.  Their son, Harrison, has been gone for a long time, imprisoned by the Handicapper General and her thugs.  So when they see him on television, it is for the first time in months.  You would imagine immediate recognition, and joy at seeing him, but, George's recognition is blasted away by a loud sound in his head.  After Harrison is shot, George went "into the kitchen for a can of beer."  No reaction; the death was probably quickly erased by a loud "handicap" of a distraction in his ear; in the brief span of the story, these handicaps have already happened multiple times, and we realize that George can barely think straight at all, about anything.  That includes his son.  So, his reaction?  Nothing, because the handicap that he has assures he can't dwell on anything or remember it for too long.

Hazel has a more physical reaction; she starts crying.  She is, momentarily, deeply distressed by what has occurred, but,  because of her level of intelligence and memory, she quickly forgets what happened.  Her husband sees the tears and asks what is wrong, but she can't remember.  The closest she gets is remembering that "something real sad on television."

In the Bergeron's society, handicaps assure that no one ever feels anything negative--sadness, grief, misery, jealousy, or low self-esteem.  So, when Harrison is gunned down in front of them on television, his own parents feel only a momentary pain before forgetting.  I hope that those thoughts help; good luck!

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a3j1s2 | Student

During the climax of Ray Bradbury's short story "Harrison Bergeron", the titular character and a ballet dancer are murdered by Diana Moon Glampers (the Handicapper General) as punishment for removing their handicaps (heavy weights and hideous masks). Their deaths are televised and Harrison's mother, Hazel, is watching the news report as the events unfold.

Initially, Hazel is deeply troubled by her son's death, as is evidenced by the tears that George sees in her eyes upon returning to the room after grabbing a drink. When asked why she has been crying, Hazel responds by pointing out "Something real sad on television," but she does not go into specifics as to what she saw. Instead of pressing her for details, George tells her to "Forget sad things," before being handicapped by having the the sound of a riveting gun played into his ear. 

Distracted by her husband's reaction to his handicap, Hazel forgets about Harrison's death and the short story ends with neither of Harrison's parents recognizing the fact that their son has just been murdered on live television.