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Harrison Bergeron

Harrison Bergeron


by Kurt Vonnegut

Character Clues

Character Analysis


If anyone really wanted to start a revolution against their oppressive government regulations, they would use actions instead of words. George and Hazel Bergeron? All they seem to want to do is watch TV. (At least they're watching TV when George isn't clutching his head in pain from the noises emitted by his government-issued ear radio.)

The most defining action of the story is probably that of Diana Moon Glampers, Handicapper General. She shoots first and asks questions… never. That one action shows you that the government means business. Maybe George and Hazel aren't so lazy after all, since sitting on your butts and watching TV is a good way to avoid getting shot. For now.

Speech and Dialogue

Anyone whose first line is "I am the Emperor!" isn't modest (54), and Harrison Bergeron apparently has no reason to be. Plus, even if we had no idea what Harrison Bergeron looks like, we'd still know he is an imposing figure just by the way he talks! Everything he says ends in an exclamation point! His bold exclamations make him appear larger than life!

On the other end of the spectrum is Harrison's father, who has been ear-radioed into submission, and can sometimes barely form a coherent sentence. Here are a few memorable quotes from ol' George: "Huh?" (8) "Yup" (10) and the classic line "Um" (15).

How a man like George fathered a son like Harrison is a mystery—until we realize that George must have been pretty spectacular at one point, too.

Direct Characterization

In case there's still any doubt, the narrator tells us flat out that some of the characters are smart or dumb, weak or strong, and we see no reason not to believe it. If we had to accuse the narration of anything, it would be for being too generous. It says that "Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence" (3), but if she's average, we're a little scared for the future of the human race.

But we probably can't trust the government, especially when it comes to Harrison himself. Clearly this government is skilled in manipulation, and their lofty descriptions of Harrison as a fourteen-year-old super-genius giant seem like propaganda.

At least until he starts flying around and proving them 100% right.