Discussion Topic

Differences in willingness to break the law and the need for handicaps between Hazel and George in "Harrison Bergeron."

Summary:

In "Harrison Bergeron," George is intelligent and requires mental handicaps to limit his thoughts, making him aware of the government's oppression but unwilling to break the law due to fear and conditioning. Hazel, on the other hand, has average intelligence and does not need handicaps, making her compliant and unaware of the full extent of the oppression, thus less inclined to question authority.

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In "Harrison Bergeron," why is Hazel, without handicaps, more willing to break the law than George?

In the short story "Harrison Bergeron," George has a very intense handicap. Every ten seconds or so there is an incredibly loud noise played in his ear that disrupts all of his thoughts. Hazel was born incredibly average. She does not need a handicap to keep her thoughts at a fair and even level. She suggests that George remove some of the extra weight he has to carry and just relax because he is at home. George refuses because it is against the law. To answer your question, I feel that Hazel is more likely to suggest breaking the law because she is able to formulate actual thoughts, unlike George who is constantly interrupted. Although Hazel is average, she is at least able to continue on with her thoughts. Due to the fact that all of George's handicaps make Hazel and him equal, they are perhaps both equally as likely to come up with an idea, but George's will be blasted out of his mind by a loud noise before it can become more than just an idea whereas Hazel can continue to voice her ideas. Additionally, George says that he hardly notices the extra weight that he carries around so he does not feel that taking off weight is worth the punishment. Hazel, who has never had to carry extra weight, cannot imagine being able to be comfortable with it, so she makes the suggestion. 

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Why is George handicapped by the government but not Hazel in "Harrison Bergeron"?

In Vonnegut's dystopian future America, the government requires every citizen to be completely equal in all facets of life. In order to assure complete uniformity and equality, government agents force talented, athletic, intelligent, and skilled civilians to wear various types of handicaps that suppress and limit their advanced abilities or alter their appearance. Harrison Bergeron's father, George, has above average intelligence, which is why he is required to wear a tiny mental handicap radio in his ear. This government transmitter emits sharp noises every twenty seconds to interrupt the person's thoughts, which prevents them from "taking unfair
advantage of their brains." George's wife, Hazel, does not need to wear a handicap because she is of average intelligence, which means that she cannot think of anything for a substantial amount of time and is rather slow. Overall, George is required to wear a tiny handicap ear radio to interrupt his thoughts because he is above average intelligence while Hazel is not, which means that she is already equal with the rest of the population.

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Why is George handicapped by the government but not Hazel in "Harrison Bergeron"?

Hazel's mind could have been the prototype for what the society desires of everyone because she has the most suitable intelligence, one that is "perfectly average," the goal. Her husband, George, however, is too intelligent and is required by law to wear handicaps. 

"Equality" has been made into law in Vonnegut's futuristic America by the passage of the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution. These amendments force the sacrificing of individuality, and they desensitize people, numbing in them any kind of critical thinking that might conflict with a controlling government. The best that anyone can be is mediocre, which is the safe level for the totalitarian government. 

In order to ensure this requisite mediocrity, Diana Moon Glampers is appointed as the Handicap General. She enforces the three amendments and other such laws, sending to prison fourteen-year-old Harrison Bergeron, a handsome, athletic genius who is in violation of the laws of mediocrity. His father George has also been incarcerated and fined, so when Hazel suggests he remove some of the heavy bird shot he is forced to wear, he refuses out of his fear.  

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Why is George handicapped by the government but not Hazel in "Harrison Bergeron"?

In the short story "Harrison Bergeron," the United States has transformed into a dystopian society in which the government suppresses skilled, intelligent, and physically gifted citizens in order to ensure complete equality. United States Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers and her agents enforce conformity and equality by requiring talented civilians to wear various types of handicaps that severely limit their abilities. Athletic people must wear heavy handicap bags to weigh them down and restrict their movements, while attractive citizens are forced to wear ugly masks that conceal their beauty. People with above-average intelligence are forced to wear tiny radios in their ears, transmitting loud noises that interrupt their thoughts. About every twenty seconds a different loud noise is transmitted through the radio, making it impossible for intelligent people to think deeply or remember their ideas.

Harrison Bergeron's father, George, was born with above-average intelligence and is required to wear a handicap radio. As George thinks about his son and watches television, his thoughts are continually interrupted by jarring, deafening noises. Throughout the story, George's thoughts are interrupted by what sounds like a ball-peen hammer hitting a milk bottle, a twenty-one-gun salute, and the noise of a deafening car crash. People with "normal" intelligence, like Hazel, are not required to wear the mental handicap radios, as they can only think in short bursts to begin with. Unlike George, Hazel is not viewed as a threat to society, because she is vacuous and unintelligent. George's intelligence separates him from other citizens, something the government considers unfair and dangerous.

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Why is George handicapped by the government but not Hazel in "Harrison Bergeron"?

In this story, which takes place in a futuristic dystopia, people are handicapped according to their abilities. If you are slightly intelligent, you are slightly handicapped. If you are extremely intelligent, your handicaps are extreme and even more debilitating. The same prescription goes for physical ability. The stronger you are, the stronger your handicaps will be. The goal is to make everyone equal. The government wants to bring the smart people down to a certain socially common level of intelligence. They also want to make everyone equal in terms of physical ability and looks. 

Hazel is completely average. She has a "perfectly average intelligence" and since she is right at the common average, she doesn't need a mental handicap. If she was a bit smarter, she would require a mild handicap. George, on the other hand, has a much higher intelligence. So, in order to bring him down to the common, average level, he is given a handicap in his ear that disrupts his thinking whenever his thoughts get too profound or intellectual.

Their son, Harrison, is profoundly gifted, mentally and physically. This is why he is given the most severe handicaps the H-G men can come up with.

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Why is George handicapped by the government but not Hazel in "Harrison Bergeron"?

In order to have a completely uniform society where every citizen is equal in all facets of life, the government requires intelligent, beautiful, and athletic individuals to wear cumbersome handicaps that oppress their advanced abilities or disguise their appearances. Harrison Bergeron's father, George, has above average intelligence and is required to wear a tiny mental handicap radio in his ear. Every twenty seconds, the mental handicap radio blasts loud, annoying sounds in George's ear to interrupt his thoughts and prevent him from thinking for an extended period of time. The mental handicap radio severely impairs George's ability to think and is extremely painful. In contrast, Hazel was born with average intelligence, which means that she can only think of things in short bursts and is not required to wear a mental handicap. Her ability to focus and think deeply is extremely limited, which is why she cannot recall witnessing the tragic death of her son on the television screen.

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Why doesn't Hazel require a handicap in "Harrison Bergeron"?

There are no handicaps on Hazel because she represents 2081 America's idea of equality. More accurately, she is clearly Kurt Vonnegut's example of the lowest common denominator that everyone must be handicapped to become like. She is the reason why people, like her husband George and her son Harrison, must be handicapped.

In literature, characters can be symbols, or stand for something larger. Hazel is such a symbol. She stands for the idea that a normal person is someone incapable of extended thought. This idea of remembering ideas only for an instant ("she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts") suggests a larger desired forgetfulness that many in the ruling class, like Diana Moon Glampers, would prefer from their subjects. Meanwhile, Hazel's husband George's intelligence is "way above normal," so he received mental handicaps in his ears.

In general, the intellectually and athletically elite tend to be the models for social behavior. In this society where "everyone was finally equal," the "perfectly average" are the ones who are the models. Without Hazel, how would the readers know what people like George and Harrison were being handicapped to be like?

Overall, the story is about how the ruling classes in society want people to be perfectly average like Hazel. They want citizens to stay within their roles and not challenge the control systems they have put in place—handicaps, in this case

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