Study Guide

Harrison Bergeron Competition

By Kurt Vonnegut


The world is jam-packed with healthy competitions: the Olympics, Wimbledon, the World Cup, Sunday-morning pancake-eating contests, and Monopoly. Well, maybe not Monopoly. But the America of 2081 as depicted by Kurt Vonnegut in "Harrison Bergeron"—well, they don't care much for competition. This makes TV pretty boring. There aren't any "good" television programs, at least not any better than any others. We only get to watch a really boring, clumsy ballet. Sure, it's good to keep things friendly—but without competition, even with yourself, what's the point of getting off the couch?

Questions About Competition

  1. Why is George Bergeron afraid of competition? Who does he see himself as potentially competing with?
  2. Everyone in the story is "equal." Is any sort of competition possible when everyone is equal?
  3. "Harrison Bergeron" only depicts what is going on in the U.S. in 2081. Would America be able to compete on a global scale if all its citizens were "equal"?

Chew on This

In this world, everyone's a winner! And when everyone's a winner, everyone is also a big loser.

The story only tells us that Americans are equal, due to the Constitutional amendments. Other countries—China, we're looking at you—are going to kick America's butt.

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