What events are included in the rising action of "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut? 

What events are included in the rising action of "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut?


Expert Answers
mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Freytag's pyramid, rising action begins after the inciting incident and ends at the story's climax. In the case of "Harrison Bergeron," the inciting incident occurs when a "news bulletin" interrupts a television program featuring ballerinas and ends when Diana Moon Glampers kills Harrison. Everything that occurs between these two incidents can be considered "rising action."

Here are some key events:

  • The television announcer struggles to explain the breaking news—the escape of Harrison Bergeron—so a beautiful ballerina, who "was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers," reads the report for him in her "warm, luminous, timeless" voice.
  • Harrison tears the door "from its hinges" and breaks into the studio, causing a panic. He announces himself as "the Emperor" and then proceeds to tear "the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper" and then snaps his head harness "like celery."
  • Harrison goes to the dancers and chooses one to be his "Empress" and removes her handicaps. They dance as Harrison orders the musicians to play beautifully. 
  • Harrison and the ballerina defy the laws of gravity and attempt to "kiss the ceiling," eventually doing so. They then "kissed each other for a long, long time" while floating in the air just below the ceiling.

Immediately after their kiss, Diana Moon Glampers enters the studio and shoots both Harrison and the dancer.

sarrington1 | Student

The rising action of a story or novel is made up of all of the events that build up towards the climax, which is the highest point of excitement.  Rising action is also how the conflict of the story builds.  Once the author has set the scene and established the characters, the rising action begins, and events start to happen that move the story and the conflict forward and build up tension.  Often, as in Harrison Bergeron, the rising action begins when an event disrupts or changes the main character's daily life.  

In Harrison Bergeron, the author sets the scene by describing George and Hazel Bergeron and an average day of their lives in 2081.  The rising action begins when the couple's television program is interrupted by a "news bulletin" stating, "Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen...has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous." This immediately shakes them from their normal blissful apathy, because Harrison is their son.  

The next important event in the rising action is when Harrison breaks into the television station, and suddenly George sees on the screen, "Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood - in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die."  Harrison then announces "Even as I stand here" he bellowed, "crippled, hobbled, sickened - I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived!".  The rising action continues to build excitement and tension as Harrison rips off his government issued handicaps, chooses an "empress", and dances beautifully and freely for all the world to see.  By all appearances, it seems that Harrison has won.

However, the rising action ends bluntly at the climax, which is the moment when "Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor."