What handicaps does Harrison wear?

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hgarey71's profile pic

hgarey71 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron," the title character is the most handicapped person in a society that seeks to equalize everyone by handicapping those who have greater abilities. 

The following quote from the story describes the handicaps he has received from the "handicapper general." 

The rest of Harrison's appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances father than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick, wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides. 

Scrap metal hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.

Harrison Bergeron also had to wear a red rubber nose, keep his eyebrows shaved, and wear black caps on his teeth at "snaggle tooth random." This was to cover up his unfair attractiveness.

Harrison was an incredible threat to this society. Not only was he athletic and strong, he was also extremely intelligent and good-looking. For these reasons, he bore more handicaps than anyone else. 

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mickey2bailey's profile pic

mickey2bailey | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Harrison is weighted down by many handicaps:Instead of wearing the normal earpiece for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones.  He also wore glasses that were thick and wavy and intended to make him half blind and give him a massive headache.  There was also scrap metal draping off him and weighing 300 pounds in its load.  In his appearance, besides the ones mentioned in the above two answers, they kept his eyebrows shaved off.

Source:  The Language of Literature Book by McDougal Littell

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janeyb | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Harrison's handicaps include thick, wavy-lens spectacles; a red rubber clown nose; and snaggle-tooth black caps for his teeth, three hundred pounds of handicaps.

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jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Harrison Bergeron, the protagonist of the story, has exceptional intelligence, height, strength and beauty, and as a result he has to bear enormous handicaps. These include distracting noises, three hundred pounds of excess weight, eyeglasses to give him headaches and cosmetic changes to make him ugly.

Despite these societal handicaps, he is able to invade a TV station and declare himself emperor. As he strips himself of his handicaps, then dances with a ballerina whose handicaps he has also discarded, both are shot dead by the Handicapper General. The story is framed by an additional perspective from Bergeron's parents, who are watching TV but cannot concentrate enough to remember the incident.

For more information on the novel, characters, and themes, please visit the eNotes link below.

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