How are George and Hazel characterized? That is, why has Hazel not been handicapped? How and why does George feel about his handicaps?

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Hazel is average and fits perfectly into the society of Vonnegut's story, "Harrison Bergeron ." On the other hand, George has much innate intelligence; therefore, he must wear the headgear that equalizes him. Also, he must wear handicaps on his body since by nature he is superior in strength...

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Hazel is average and fits perfectly into the society of Vonnegut's story, "Harrison Bergeron." On the other hand, George has much innate intelligence; therefore, he must wear the headgear that equalizes him. Also, he must wear handicaps on his body since by nature he is superior in strength and agility.

The society in which George and Hazel live values equality at the cost of excellence. So, in order to maintain this equal mediocrity, people are fitted with handicaps if they are naturally superior to others. Since Hazel has no stellar characteristics, she wears no handicaps. "Who knows better'n I do what normal is" she asks her husband. Her thoughts are simple, her ideas quotations from something she may have heard. For instance, when the television announcer tries to say "Ladies and gentlemen," but he falters and stumbles because of a speech impediment, Hazel remarks, 

"That's all right...he tried. That's the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him."

George's thoughts, however, are often interrupted by his mental-handicap radio in his ear that intercepts any logical, complex, or subversive thought. When, for instance, he regards the ballerinas on the television broadcast, he reasons that, perhaps, ballerinas should not be handicapped so that they could really be graceful and thereby provide beautiful entertainment. But, his radio sends shocks to this subversive thought about the notion of the necessity for superiority in some areas, and his head rings and tears fill his eyes. 

George's body, too, is handicapped: He wears a forty-seven pound canvas bag filled with birdshot. About his handicap George bravely comments, "I don't notice it any more. It's just a part of me." Some explanation for this remark is the fact that George fears the penalty for removing it: "Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every gall I took out....I don't call that a bargain." Because George is well aware that his rebellious son, Harrison, is imprisoned because of his lack of compliance with the rules of their society, he resigns himself to a modern version of a ball and chains in his own home.

There is no question that the futuristic society of what should be harmonious equality lacks greatly in such harmony. For, people must accept oppressive measures in the name of "equality," and the individual civil rights of citizens have been greatly compromised in this desensitized society.

 

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