Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron book cover
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In "Harrison Bergeron," what consequences must a person face for removing a handicap?

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The major goal of this society is, evidently, to render everyone equal: no one is smarter than anyone else or better looking or stronger or faster or more graceful. People who would be smarter or more attractive than the average person, for example, are made to wear handicaps that prevent them from "taking unfair advantage" of their differences. George Bergeron is more intelligent than the typical person, and so he has to wear a tiny radio in his ear that will produce loud sounds in his ear every few seconds that disrupt his train of thought so that he cannot make use of his brains.

George also wears a heavy bag filled with forty-seven pounds of lead balls around his neck to slow him down. When Hazel, his wife, encourages him to lie down and rest his handicap bag on the pillow, giving him a break from its weight for a bit, he responds that he would get "'Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball [he] took out.'" This is a really harsh punishment, and so we can see how important these handicaps are to the values of the community.

Later, when Harrison takes over the television station, removing all of his handicaps and choosing a dancer to be his "empress," he removes her handicaps as well. When Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, enters the television studio, she shoots Harrison and his "empress" dead with her gun, and she threatens to shoot the musicians if they do not put their handicaps back on in ten seconds. Thus, punishments can range from fines and jail time to death.

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