by Kurt Vonnegut
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
The Future is Here! And It's Kind of Boring!
In the first couple paragraphs, we learn that the America of 2081 is a world with hundreds more rules and regulations than we have now. We also meet George and Hazel Bergeron, two people whose son, Harrison, has been arrested by the government for being all-around too awesome. They're watching ballet on TV. You know, like you do when the government has kidnapped your son. This all sets us up for the surprising—and brief—climax to come.
Hang On, Let's Think About This for a Second...
Things start getting interesting when Hazel starts thinking about changes she would make to the rules if she were Handicapper General. Hey, Hazel, we have a change we'd like to make: get rid of the handicaps! Sadly, that thought doesn't race (or even crawl) through her tiny little brain. We can practically hear her one little squeaky gear turning as she fantasizes about being Handicapper General.
Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky (and This Guy)
The highest point of action in the book (LOL, literally) is when Harrison escapes and storms the stage of the ballet. Heck, Harrison picking his nose would have been more action than we're getting from the dumb ballet and those two couch potatoes, George and Hazel. But Harrison goes above and beyond all expectations.
In his few moments of freedom, he takes a ballerina as his Empress, frees her from her mask, and defies gravity by flying into the air and kissing the ceiling of the auditorium. Then he's shot dead by the Handicapper General, and everything's back to normal.
Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming
Not so much "falling action" as "forgetting action." We're not even sure how much he sees, because at some point, he just leaves to get a beer. You'd think someone with above-average intelligence would watch to see what happened to his son, but not George. Hazel did watch what happened, but she soon forgets about it too. The Bergeron philosophy? "Forget sad things" (89). We're going to remember this traumatic event longer than they did, and we're not even related to the kid.
"Say Goodnight, Hazel" "Goodnight, Hazel!"
There's nothing to resolve here because, to George and Hazel, nothing actually happened. The status quo has returned. Okay, they'll have to get their TV fixed, but aside from that, nothing's changed. In fact, the story ends with a joke: Hazel repeating herself verbatim after George says "You can say that again" (93). But after what we've just seen, it hardly seems funny.