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by Kurt Vonnegut
Harrison Bergeron Story Summary
We're transported to the year 2081, and man, we wish we'd stayed home. There have been 213 amendments to the Constitution, and they're all to make people "equal." In this case, "equal" means that anyone who's above average gets handicapped in some way. For example, strong people might be crippled with weights; smart folk might be crippled by having horrible noises blasted in their ears. Anyone who's ever tried to study with a dog barking or leaf blower doing its thing will know how effective this is. (We have a feeling this isn't what people had in mind when they campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment.) George and Hazel Bergeron are watching ballet on their TV. Oppressive, totalitarian government kidnappings always get us in the mood for . Swan Lake They're a little bummed, because the government took away their son Harrison when he was only fourteen years old. Well, actually, they don't seem as bummed as you might expect. See, because he's of above-average intelligence, George has piercing sirens going off in his brain. Thanks, government-installed mental-handicap radio! Hazel talks to George about changes she would make if she were the Handicapper General of the United States. Hm, how about wind chimes instead of hammers breaking glass? Might be more relaxing. George doesn't think it's a good idea to start breaking the rules. He's content where he is: writhing on the couch, clutching his head in pain every time a loud noise gets blasted into his ears. The ballet program is interrupted when one of the ballerinas has an urgent news announcement to make. Harrison Bergeron has escaped! They show a photo of Harrison and all his handicaps: heavy scrap metal to weigh him down, glasses to obscure his eyesight, and giant headphones to distract him mentally. Wow, if he's that decked out, he must be one special guy. Suddenly, Harrison himself rips off the door to the stage and storms on screen. What should be a liberating moment is kind of scary, as he announces not that he wants to free everyone, but "I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!" (54). He then claims a ballerina as his Empress (to be fair, she volunteered for the job). The two of them dance, fly through the air, kiss the ceiling, and then kiss each other. This kind-of-romantic, kind-of-scary, all-of-weird moment is cut short when Diana Moon Glampers, Handicapper General, shoots them dead with a shotgun. Revolutions just aren't what they used to be. Just then, the Bergerons' television blows out and goes dark. George wanders back in—evidently, he had gone to get a beer during this whole kerfuffle. Hazel cries, but pretty soon she's forgotten why. George tells her to "forget sad things" (89), which she does almost instantaneously. Then the story ends with a cheesy rimshot: "I could tell that one was a doozy" (92), says Hazel. To which George responds, "You can say that again" (93). So she does. Word for word. Always doing exactly what she's told.
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