Study Guide

George Bergeron in Harrison Bergeron

By Kurt Vonnegut

George Bergeron

If all of literature were one big mansion, and novels and characters comprised its residents and furniture, George Bergeron would be its welcome mat. He would let people walk all over him, and probably be upset if they didn't pause on top of him to scrape the poop off their shoes on their way in.

You Can't Spell Apathetic Without Pathetic

George Bergeron leads a pretty sad existence. We're not sure what his job is, but it can't require physical labor, due to all the weights he has to wear, or mental labor, due to the ear-piercing radio implanted in his ear. He is definitely not handi-capable. Can you really blame him for wanting to just sit on the couch and watch TV with his wife while all his freedoms get slowly chipped away into nothingness?

His wife, Hazel, isn't exactly a revolutionary either, but at least she sometimes thinks about how society might be different. But George won't have any of it. Case(s) in point:

When Hazel suggests chimes on Sunday as a relaxing break from the sirens in his ears, George's first response is that they wouldn't be harsh enough. And then, when she suggests that George relieve some of his burden by resting his weights, he totally refuses.

The positive spin is that George doesn't seem to think anything good would come of bending the rules. The negative spin? He's so whipped by his government that he wouldn't even take a reprieve if it were offered. He's had his rights trampled on, and he submits to it. (Maybe something to think about next time you're taking off your shoes at an airport.)

What It All Means

Well, we're not totally sure. The thing about George is that he could represent almost anyone:

  • He could be the disillusioned guy, the guy who doesn't vote (or wouldn't, if they had elections in 2081—we're not sure they do), because the country and its government is what it is and nothing's going to change.
  • He could be the guy who's so beaten down by work and society that's he's too exhausted to care.
  • He could be the guy who wouldn't dare rock the boat, not even to let other people know that it's sinking.
  • Or maybe George is the guy that's just so beat down by government rules and regulations that he can't do anything else. Over-regulating has cost him his freedom and his desire for life.

Whoever George is, he is not someone you want to be.

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