Harrison Bergeron Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What are the masks, earphones, body weights, and headgear for?

Expert Answers info

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

calendarEducator since 2016

write7,221 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

The masks, earphones, body weights, and headgear are designed to handicap individuals who are more attractive or smarter or faster than others. As the narrator says in the first sentence, "everybody was finally equal."

Equality in all things—intelligence, speed, attractiveness, and everything else—has been achieved by Amendments 211-213 to the Constitution. Hazel Bergeron, for example, has a "perfectly average intelligence," but her husband, George, has a higher-than-normal level of smarts. In order to make him "equal" to Hazel, he has to wear "a little mental handicap radio in his ear" that would emit horrifyingly distracting and sharp noises every twenty seconds so that George could not take "unfair advantage" of his above-average intelligence.

The ballerinas on the television George and Hazel watch are "burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked" so that no one watching would feel bad about themselves by seeing someone more graceful or more attractive than they. There's actually a Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, who determines what handicaps people ought to have in order to make them equal to everyone else.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial