Harrison Bergeron Ideas for Reports and Papers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron book cover
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Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. What is "equality" as defined by the American Bill of Rights? By the civil rights movement during the 1960s in America? How do these definitions compare to the Equality Laws in this story, and how they are enforced by the Handicapper General?

2. How can an individual's superior talents and strengths be of benefit to her or his family, neighbors, and fellow citizens? How can superior talents and strengths be a negative experience for an individual, or a community, rather than a benefit?

3. Compare the story "Harrison Bergeron" to a short story by Stephen King, perhaps "The Raft." Both authors are American, male, white, and attended college. What distinct differences and similarities can you detect in these two stories? How do the authors' writing styles differ? What can you say about the characters each author creates? How would Stephen King have written the story "Harrison Bergeron"?

4. Draw pictures of each of the major characters in "Harrison Bergeron", and include with each a series of notes describing what elements you took from the story and what elements you decided from your own impressions of the characters. Will you use television and movie actors as your models, or people around you?

5. What is the difference between the words "alike" and "equal"?

6. How useful is this fantasy story when considering real events and motivations? Is this story a good tool for beginning a dialogue on equality and civil rights? Find a relevant article in a newspaper or magazine and explain how it relates to the situation in "Harrison Bergeron."

7. How useful is this story for a beginning author to read? Annotate this story as you would for a writer's workshop, pointing out areas where you would revise characterization or suggesting ways to rephrase sentences which tell the reader what to know rather than showing the reader something to think about.

8. What systems of handicapping are used in sports such as golf and horse racing? Are these handicaps effective? How are they regarded by the people participating in these sports? What is the long-term effect?

9. What systems of handicapping are used in employment programs or government granting programs? Are these handicaps effective? How are they regarded by the people participating in these programs, or wishing to participate? How valid are any complaints?