What are the choices and consequences in "Harrison Bergeron"?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a society in which "everyone is finally equal," the intellectual and physical prowess of individuals has been enervated by handicapping. Those who choose to not comply by wearing their handicaps are fined and incarcerated.

People who are superior in intelligence are made to wear headgear that sends shocks and noises into the ears and mind, destroying any thoughts that are higher than average. If a person is athletically superior, weights are worn to burden the individual down to average. George Bergeron exemplifies the repression of a superior person as he is wears forty-seven pounds of bird shot in a bag that hangs from his neck and headgear that has a siren go off in his ears whenever he has a superior thought. When his wife Hazel suggests that he ease his discomfort by temporarily removing some of the bird shot, George objects,

"Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I take out."

Similarly, if one is beautiful, then a mask must be worn over the face, apologies made for a beautiful voice. 

United States Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers monitors the people for compliance to the rules in the police state in which the Bergerons live. When Harrison breaks out of jail and attempts to take over the television station, which is symbolic of the desensitizing and control of people's minds, Miss Glampers fires a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun at Harrison, who declares himself emperor, and at the beautiful ballerina empress, killing them both. 

Clearly, here Vonnegut satirizes the desensitizing of people's minds through the medium of television as well as the numbing of thought that this medium induces. For, after having witnessed this shooting of her son, the simple-minded Hazel Bergeron cries, but, when her husband returns from the kitchen and asks her why she is crying, Hazel replies, "I forgot....Something real sad on television."  

Read the study guide:
Harrison Bergeron

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question