Study Guide

Harrison Bergeron Rules and Order

By Kurt Vonnegut

Rules and Order

All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution. (1)

We already know about the first 27, but you have to wonder what the other 183 new amendments did to change society. And you definitely have to wonder how so many people could agree to change the Constitution, since getting an amendment through is tough. Is this a clue to the way government works in "Harrison Bergeron"?

Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. (2)

Wow. We get the feeling that these people would even regulate the weather if they could. This line seems specifically for (or maybe it's against?) the people who think that the government would (or maybe it's should?) take over everything if they had the power to.

[George] was required by law to wear [his handicap ear radio] at all time. (3)

If we had to wear those ear radios all the type, we'd hope they'd at least be stylish. Like neon pink iPod headphones. But more importantly, this makes us wonder what kind of clothes everyone is required to wear in 2081. If everyone is average, they're probably all in drab grays, with the thinnest people forced to wear horizontal stripes.

"Who knows better'n I do what normal is?" said Hazel. (20)

Hazel makes an interesting point here. Everyone's definition of "normal" is different. Who died and made Diana Moon Glampers queen of normality? It sure takes a conceited individual to think she (or he) is special enough to dictate everyone else's behavior.

"If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few" (26)

Oh, Hazel, you rebel! It's easy to suggest changes to someone else's predicament when you're not in the same boat. Plus, Hazel's all talk, no action, making lots of suggestions, but never actually moving from the couch during the whole story. (Also, apparently "average" people have sub-average grammar.)

"Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out" said George. (27)

The government is seriously not messing around with enforcing their regulations. But we have to ask: can someone in prison be considered "equal" to people who aren't?

"The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?" (31)

This might be the primary question of the whole story, and the answer depends on what you think George represents. Is he a citizen beaten down by rules and regulations, is he just too stupid and lazy to take action and do anything about it, or does he represent the problems that might happen if the government is allowed to make all our decisions for us?

"Everybody must do as I say at once!" (54)

Harrison Bergeron isn't a savior; he's a dictator. Kind of like Diana Moon Glampers when you think about it. With Harrison in charge, there would be no Constitution, no 213 amendments, and we're not sure if the world would be better off, or worse.

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well. (72)

This is an unexpected answer to George's question about what would happen to society if people started cheating on the laws. Harrison shows us that if people start breaking rules, the very fabric of reality will change. Or … maybe Vonnegut is criticizing people who think that socialism will destroy reality as we know it. What do you think?

[Diana Moon Glampers] aimed [her shotgun] at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on. (80)

It looks like DMG has sped right past prison and fines and arrived right at the death penalty. It shows that her character means business. It's her way or the highway (to, uh, h-e- … you know the rest).

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