What are George's handicaps in Harrison Bergeron?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the dystopian, radically egalitarian society depicted in "Harrison Bergeron," those deemed by the government to have a natural advantage over others—such as physical strength or intelligence—are forced to wear so-called handicaps to bring them down to the same level as everyone else. The protagonist's father, George, is physically quite strong and so is required by the state to wear forty-seven pound weights around his neck. Inevitably, these weights slow him down, impeding his movement considerably. This is precisely what they're intended to do, as it's considered unacceptable in this society for anyone to be stronger than anyone else; everyone must be equal.

In addition to being physically strong, George is also a highly intelligent man. This also makes him a danger to the state's vision of total equality. The Handicapper General doesn't just want to control how people behave; she also wants to control how they think. To this end, George is lumbered by a radio which emits noise into his ears every twenty seconds, preventing any kind of sustained thought or concentration. As well as serving the government's policy of complete equality, this specific handicap also prevents naturally intelligent people such as George from getting any ideas about challenging the prevailing system.

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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George is Harrison’s father, and so has to bear more than one handicap, prefiguring the more extreme ones his son will wear.

Because of his high intelligence, he has to wear a “mental handicap radio.” This goes off every 20 seconds, to disrupt his thinking.

He also has to wear almost 50 pounds of extra weight around his neck (47, to be exact). This indicates that he must be markedly stronger than average, which is again a sign of how strong his son will be.

Those are all of the direct handicaps that George wears. You could argue that his knowledge of having to wear these handicaps is another, more conceptual handicap, as are the laws that limit him, his son, and all of the citizens of this time.

A final emotional handicap would be the death of his son.

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