The setting of Kurt Vonnegut's story entitled "Harrison Bergeron" is a futuristic America in the year 2081. In this society, new Constitutional Amendments have been passed to enforce the equality of everyone. Agents enforce the laws that make mediocrity mandatory. In this way, everyone is the same.
Those who are naturally mediocre are the most fortunate because they do not have to wear any handicaps. Among this group, Diane Moon Glampers has been appointed the Handicapper General. She enforces the mandatory wearing of handicaps by those who are smarter or more talented than others. George and his son, Harrison, are among those forced to wear heavy handicaps. When they have independent thoughts, such ideas are immediately removed by the transmission of noises sent through their mental-handicap radio. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter sends out a piercing noise, such as the sound of a riveting gun so that they lose their thoughts.
The narrative of "Harrison Bergeron" depicts a society set in a time in which there are no longer any civil rights, and technology desensitizes people. When Harrison, "a genius and an athlete," escapes from prison, he enters the setting of the television station viewed by citizens of his society. There, he attempts a coup as he declares himself emperor. He then takes a beautiful ballerina, who has been dancing with others, frees her of her handicaps, and claims her as his Empress. However, it is not long before Ms. Glampers ends the rebellion. With a double-barreled shotgun, she shoots the Empress and the Emperor. Then, after reloading, Ms. Glampers points this gun at the musicians who have taken off their handicaps. She then orders them to replace the handicaps on themselves, putting an end to any civil disobedience.
When the invasion of the broadcasting station by Harrison occurs, George Bergeron is away from the television in his home. His wife Hazel has watched, though, and she has seen Harrison on the screen. However, by the time George returns, she has forgotten why she is crying. Consequently, George does not learn of the fate of his son.
Of the two elements of setting (time and place) in Vonnegut's story, time is the more important one. In the year 2081, individual rights have been lost; mediocrity is the law. Bizarre handicaps such as bags of birdshot are worn around the neck; masks are worn by people who are more physically gifted than others. Mental-handicap radio signals send charges to the brain, shifting thoughts and ensuring mental mediocrity. Individual rights have been stripped from the citizens by Amendments to the Constitution and by the use of technology.