Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron book cover
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What are the handicaps the ballerinas on TV must wear in "Harrison Bergeron"?

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In Vonnegut's celebrated short story "Harrison Bergeron," the United States Constitution has been amended to ensure that each citizen is completely equal in every facet of life. In the year 2081, agents of the United States Handicapper General have successfully developed a uniform society by requiring any talented, intelligent, or physically attractive individual to wear handicaps. The function of the handicaps is to limit the abilities of exceptional, talented members of society.

For example, George Bergeron has above-normal intelligence and is forced to wear a tiny mental handicap radio in his ear, which emits a loud noise every twenty seconds that interrupts his thoughts and prevents him from thinking deeply about any subject.

In the story, George and Hazel are watching ballerinas on television and cannot help but notice their oppressive handicaps. The ballerinas are forced to wear sashweights, bags of birdshot, and masks that cover their faces. Since the ballerinas are physically gifted and athletic, the heavy sashweights and bags of birdshot limit their physical mobility and prevent them from displaying their athleticism.

Similarly, the ugly masks hide their beautiful features and make them equal to the unattractive, mundane population. Once Harrison Bergeron takes over the television studio, he proceeds to strip the cumbersome, ugly handicaps off the ballerinas as they gracefully float into the air.

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