What is a summary of the conflict in "Harrison Bergeron"?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflict in Harrison Bergeron is mainly between Harrison Bergeron and his government.

In the story, he is the lone rebel who has been accused of plotting to overthrow the government. At seven feet tall, Harrison is considered unusually robust. He is athletic, good-looking, and extremely intelligent. To his government, Harrison is a threat to social stability. So, he is required to wear considerably heavier "handicaps" than other citizens. The handicaps are meant to repress Harrison's intelligent thoughts, to hide his good looks, and to slow him down. Handicaps are the main way Harrison's government ensures equality among its citizens.

As a practice, Harrison wears a massive pair of earphones, extremely thick glasses, and three hundred pounds of scrap metal. Additionally, he is required to keep his eyebrows shaved, to wear a red, rubber ball over his nose, and to wear black caps over random white teeth. To reinforce his commitment to individual freedom, Harrison makes his final stand at the studio; there, he takes off his handicaps and dances with a ballerina (who has also taken off her handicaps). They dance without inhibition, something neither has been able to do in a long time.

The conflict between Harrison and his government ends when Diana Moon Glampers (the Handicapper General) uses a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun to kill Harrison and the ballerina.

price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main conflict in “Harrison Bergeron” is between the citizens of the dystopian society and the government that has imposed handicaps on people to make them “equal.”  The government of this society feels that the only way to make people equal is to determine their strengths and oppress them so they are not better than anyone else.  For example, because Harrison is big and strong, he must carry bags full of sand around his neck to weigh him down.  Harrison’s father, George, is more intelligent than other citizens, and so the government equips him with devices in his ears that clang and ring loudly when he starts to think too much.  The noise interrupts his thinking and makes him forgetful.   The protagonist, Harrison, is the one citizen who stands up and attempts to fight against this oppression by interrupting a radio broadcast by the government and demanding his rights.  Unfortunately, he is unsuccessful in winning against the society that doesn’t understand the importance of human rights and individuality and is killed.