Why did Harrison Bergeron die?

Quick answer:

Harrison Bergeron dies because he is shot by Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General. He has broken out of jail, removed his handicaps, and declared himself the Emperor. Because of exceptional intelligence, athleticism, and power, he is too dangerous to the social order, and so he is eliminated.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Harrison Bergeron is the only son of George and Hazel Bergeron, and we learn from his father’s thoughts that Harrison is “abnormal” and currently in jail. When a news bulletin interrupts the program George and Hazel are watching one night, they learn that Harrison—who is only fourteen years old—has escaped from jail and has been plotting to overthrow the government. Everyone in the community has agreed to wear “handicaps," items to make them less graceful, less beautiful, or less able to think clearly so that they can be “equal” to the people who are not graceful, beautiful, or particularly intelligent by nature. As the narrator says in the first line, “everybody was finally equal.”

A news bulletin interrupts the program George and Hazel are watching, and the couple learns that Harrison, an athlete and a genius, has apparently removed many of his handicaps, making him quite dangerous to the state and the social order. Suddenly, Harrison bursts onto the screen and declares himself “the Emperor” and says that all must do as he says. He tears off the remainder of his handicaps, scraps of metal "guaranteed to support five thousand pounds," and dances with the beautiful ballerina who agrees to be his Empress. Just then, the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, appears on screen and shoots Harrison and the ballerina. They fall dead to the floor. Thus, Harrison dies because he is too tall, too smart, too athletic—in short, too exceptional—to be made “equal” to everyone else.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why did Harrison Bergeron kill himself?

Harrison Bergeron didn't kill himself literally, but he did instrument his own killing by standing up for what he believed in.  Standing up for one's rights never goes without some consequence, but in Harrison's case it led to his demise.  Harrison felt what they were doing to people was wrong.  He felt everyone was entitled to his own individuality and that no one should be punished because he was smarter or better looking than someone else.  Being different is what the world is all about and we all should embrace the differences and rejoice for what we have to share with others.  Harrison tried to initiate a change in his world and was willing to sacrifice his life for it along with his Empress, the ballerina.  This could have been a new start for a new world, but Diana Moom Glampers put a damper on his quest for individuality when she shot him and his Empress dead.  This showed that there was a fear for change and that individuality was not admired in a person.  In this world monotony and stagnation were admired and there would always be a unrealistic world of controlled robots.  People are always threatened by change.

Source:  The Language of Literature Book by McDougal Littell

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why did Harrison Bergeron kill himself?

He didn't--not in the short story, anyway. He was shot by Diana Moon Glampers, the handicapper general, after declaring himself emperor.

In the film version, Harrison kills himself because he knows that his death--shooting himself in the head on live television--is the only way to keep his message to the masses alive. He would rather die in this way that makes people sit up and take notice, and maybe take off thier handicaps, than exist in a world where people are taught to accept simply being controlled. He has tasted the sweetness of REAL art and REAL beauty, and he wants other to share that same experience.

He knows that if he doesn't make some drastic move, then everything will remain the same, and no one, except possibly the secret society that runs the country behind the scenes, will understand the importance of individuality and excellence. He sees that as a tragedy.

And his plan works--if you notice, it is his son who later watches the videos of Harrison sharing art with the world, and his son and friend take of thier handicapping headsets.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why did Harrison Bergeron kill himself?

Actually, General Diana Moon Glampers kills Harrison and the ballerina instantly with a double-blast of her shotgun.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on