Discussion Topic

George and Hazel's lack of concern about their son's disappearance in "Harrison Bergeron."

Summary:

In "Harrison Bergeron," George and Hazel's lack of concern about their son's disappearance highlights the dehumanizing effects of a society obsessed with enforced equality. Their inability to feel deep emotions or remember significant events underscores the oppressive control the government has over their thoughts and feelings, rendering them incapable of genuine concern for their son.

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Why don't George and Hazel in "Harrison Bergeron" think much about their son's disappearance?

In Vonnegut's dystopian future America, the Constitution has been amended in order to create a completely equal society. Talented, attractive, and intellectually gifted citizens are required to wear handicaps that dramatically limit their abilities and make them completely equal to everyone else in society. Harrison Bergeron's parents are subjected to the oppressive nature of the government, which is responsible for their inability to contemplate on their son's incarceration or lament his absence.

Vonnegut writes that George has above average intelligence and is required to wear a little mental handicap radio in his ear at all times, which disrupts his thoughts by sending sharp, loud noises into his ear every twenty seconds. Each time George attempts to think about his son, his thoughts are disrupted when he hears an extremely loud noise. Hazel was born with average intelligence, which means that she can only think of things in short bursts and is unable to focus for an extended period of time, which is why she is also not able to think about her son.

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Why don't George and Hazel in "Harrison Bergeron" think much about their son's disappearance?

Remember that in this terrifying vision of a dystopian society, the big equalling factor is that everyone by law is required to be the same as everyone elseā€”no one is allowed to be better or more intelligent. Thus, when the narrator tells us about Harrison, Hazel and George's son, being taken away, he then goes on to explain why his parents are unable to think about it and get upset about it too much:

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear.

This handicap, the narrator goes on to inform us, would send out a sharp noise every twenty seconds or so, meaning that George is reduced to "average" intelligence. It is because of this that Harrison's parents are unable to think about him and get upset about what has happened to their son.

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Why don't George and Hazel often think about their son in "Harrison Bergeron"?

Quite simply, George and Hazel do not think about Harrison often because they are not permitted to in their dystopian society that is so focused on complete equality. Because Harrison does not accept the societal ideas, he is imprisoned when he is fourteen and not allowed to be thought of by the citizens. The reader learns that, while Hazel is of average intelligence and therefore not a "hindrance" to the equal society, George has to wear a mental handicap radio to make his brain function at a more "average" level. In this chillingly brief story, George's radio goes off several times to direct his thoughts away from the direction they are going. One occasion in which this happens is when Harrison escapes from prison and George sees Harrison on the television and recognizes him. When he does, "The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head." This literal inability to think of their son for extended periods of time makes the ending all the more bitter to the reader, when he or she understands that the couple will never mourn for their son. After Harrison's death, the couple quickly forgets the sight of their son being shot. George tells his wife to "forget sad things," to which she responds, "I always do."

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Why don't George and Hazel often think about their son in "Harrison Bergeron"?

The reason that George and Hazel cannot think about their son, Harrison Bergeron, very often is because of their mental handicaps. Vonnegut writes that Hazel has completely normal intelligence, which means that she can only think of certain things in short bursts. However, George has above average intelligence and is forced to wear a government-issued mental handicap radio that transmits loud, jarring noises every twenty seconds to interrupt his thoughts.

In Vonnegut's future America, the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution make each citizen completely equal in every way possible. Citizens with above average intelligence like George are forced to wear mental handicap radios while talented athletes and beautiful people are forced to wear cumbersome weights and ugly masks. Unfortunately, George and Hazel's son possesses above average intelligence and is physically gifted. Harrison is considered a threat to the government and is arrested. Sadly, both of his parents do not have the ability to think for prolonged periods of time, which is why they cannot think about Harrison.

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Why don't George and Hazel often think about their son in "Harrison Bergeron"?

George and Hazel are physically unable to think more often about their son, Harrison Bergeron, for different reasons. George has above-average intelligence and is forced to wear a tiny handicap radio in his ear, transmitting loud noises every twenty seconds to interrupt his thoughts. The startling noises prevent George from thinking clearly or at length about any given subject. Several times in the story, George attempts to think about his son but is interrupted by a sharp, deafening noise. When George attempts to think about his incarcerated son, the sound of a twenty-one-gun salute instantly interrupts his thoughts. Later in the story, a news bulletin flashes onto the television screen, and George sees a picture of Harrison. George immediately recognizes Harrison, but the sound of a car crash in his head disrupts his thoughts.

Unlike George, who cannot think about Harrison because he is forced to wear a disruptive handicap radio in his ear, Hazel does not think about her son because she is physically incapable of doing so. Hazel has normal intelligence, which means that she can only think of things in short bursts. Hazel is very forgetful and does not have the ability to think deeply about Harrison, much less anything else. She continually loses her train of thought and forgets what she is talking about.

Sadly, George and Hazel do not recall witnessing their son's tragic televised death. After hearing the car crash in his ear, George goes into the kitchen for a beer. When he returns, he sees that his wife has been crying. George asks Hazel why she's upset, but she cannot recall the true reason, only that there was something "real sad on television."

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