Harrison Bergeron Characters
The main characters in "Harrison Bergeron" are Harrison Bergeron, George Bergeron, Hazel Bergeron, and Diana Moon Glampers.
- Harrison Bergeron is a brilliant, handsome fourteen-year old who refuses to be handicapped by society.
- George Bergeron is Harrison's father, an intelligent man who refuses to remove his handicaps because he fears repercussions and upholds the aim of equality.
- Hazel Bergeron is Harrison's mother, a "normal" person with no handicaps.
- Diana Moon Glampers is the Handicapper General, an oppressive figure who ensures equality through draconian means. She kills Harrison after his transcendent dance with the ballerina.
Last Updated on December 11, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 719
Harrison is the son of George and Hazel. He is described as seven feet tall, athletic, smart, and handsome, as judged by the handicaps given to him by the Handicapper General. He is arrested and jailed at fourteen for plotting to overthrow the government, but he escapes and ends up in a television studio, where he tries to get his message out to the world. He wants things to return to “normal” and tries to free people from their artificial chains.
It’s clear Harrison has exceptional gifts, both mentally and physically, and wants to become a ruler to replace the current government, going so far as to declare himself “the Emperor.” He tries to free others from their handicaps, but the meaning and value of his next action is debatable. His elaborate dance with his “Empress” may be an expression of unbounded freedom and thus a refutation of the government’s program of eliminating excellence and excess. But even if the spectacle of the dance has positive intentions, it results in the deaths of Harrison and the ballerina he is dancing with—as well as a swift restoration of the status quo.
To the end, it isn’t entirely clear whether Harrison’s rebellion is motivated by a desire to control and rule over others or a desire to free others from their strictures. What is clear is that a life of limitations is unacceptable to Harrison, and for his refusal he surrenders his life.
George is the husband of Hazel and the father of Harrison. He has an above-average level of intelligence, which means he must wear an ear radio that undermines his ability to think for more than twenty seconds at a time. He is also forced to wear an extra forty-seven pounds of weight to ensure he is no stronger than average.
George has moments of individual thought when he is watching the ballerinas dance and conversing with his wife, but due to the clamorous sounds in his ears, he becomes frustrated and gives up thinking. He focuses on the images on the television screen, unable to sustain any given thought for long.
Vonnegut uses George as a symbol of those who give in to an oppressive system and follow the status quo. George seems to have bold ideas, but he can’t fight through his cognitive handicap long enough to consider those ideas deeply. In this sense, George is juxtaposed with his son, Harrison, who overcomes all the handicaps placed on him. While Harrison’s rebellion leads to his death, it can be said that George’s acceptance has led to his figurative death: The considerable constraints placed upon him have diminished his natural abilities and muted his experience of the world.
Hazel is George’s wife and Harrison’s mother. She does not wear any handicaps, because she is average in intelligence and strength. She struggles to hold conversations and forgets events right after they happen; George finds her crying multiple times, yet she can never remember why.
In one sense, it can be said that Hazel is happier than George, because she has no physical handicaps added to her body. She also can’t remember moments of sadness, which eliminates the possibility of lingering negative thoughts and feelings. Hazel seems to be sympathetic and compassionate, wanting George to be comfortable by setting aside his burdens.
Diana Moon Glampers
Diana is the Handicapper General of the United States. It is her job to follow the modified Constitution to ensure that everyone is equal by means of physical and mental handicaps in the forms of weights, ear radios, and other constraints. It seems she will do anything to keep order, including kill those who step out of line, as seen in the final moments of the story.
Diana represents authority and totalitarianism in this tale. She attains order by imposing strict guidelines against those who choose to disobey, imposing fines and jail time, and ultimately killing Harrison and the ballerina.
Diana Moon Glampers acts as a character foil to the genial Hazel. In a sense, Vonnegut complicates conventional or obvious notions of gender norms by presenting women in such opposing roles. The strictest and most dictatorial character is a woman, but so is the most compassionate and sympathetic.
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