Short Story 2 – HARRISON BERGERON By Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


THE AUTHOR Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was born in Indianaplis, Indiana, in 1922. He edited his high school newspaper and attended Cornell University, where he studied chemistry and wrote for the Cornell Daily Sun for about two years. Then Vonnegut joined the army, where he served with the U.S. 106th Infantry Division during WorldWar II and earned a Purple Heart. He was taken captive and, as a prisoner of war, saw the bombing of Dresden in Germany. After the war ended, Vonnegut earned an advanced degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago and worked for the City News Bureau of Chicago, where he worked as a police reporter. He eventually left Chicago for Schenectady, New York, to work for General Electric in the public relations department. In 1951, he left his job to devote himself to writing. “Harrison Bergeron” is one of Vonnegut’s most important short stories. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1961 and was later republished as part of the short-story collection Welcome to the Monkey House (1968). Set in a dystopian America in 2081, it is often interpreted as a blistering critique of authoritarian governments. In its blend of satire and science fiction, “Harrison Bergeron” typifies Vonnegut’s work. The story expands on an idea first introduced, in abbreviated form, in Vonnegut’s novel The Sirens of Titans. In 1995, the short story was made into a TV movie.

PLOT OVERVIEW It is the year 2081. Because of Amendments 211, 212, and 213 to the Constitution, every American is fully equal, meaning that no one is stupider, uglier, weaker, or slower than anyone else. The Handicapper General and a team of agents ensure that the laws of equality are enforced. One April, fourteen-year-old Harrison Bergeron is taken away from his parents, George and Hazel, by the government. George and Hazel aren’t fully aware of the tragedy. Hazel’s lack of awareness is due to average intelligence. In 2081, those who possess average intelligence are unable to think for extended stretches of time. George can’t comprehend the tragedy because the law requires him to wear a radio twenty-four hours a day. The government broadcasts noise over these radios to interrupt the thoughts of intelligent people like George.


Harrison Bergeron – The son of George and Hazel Bergeron. Fourteen years old and seven feet tall, Harrison seems to be the most advanced model the human species can produce. He is a genius who is also absurdly strong, a dancer who can also break out of prison, and a self-proclaimed emperor.

George Bergeron – Harrison’s father and Hazel’s husband. To counteract his physical strength, George must wear weights around his neck. George, an intelligent man, must also wear a radio that prohibits him from thinking deeply. The noises broadcast at twenty-second intervals by this radio interfere with George’s natural tendency toward intense thought.

Hazel Bergeron – Harrison’s mother and George’s wife. Scatterbrained, dumb, and helpless, Hazel is also sweet and well intentioned.

Diana Moon Glampers – The Handicapper General of the United States. Diana Moon Glampers is in charge of dumbing down and disabling those who are above average.

 Vocabulary to be used while reading here:



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