Study Guide

Harrison Bergeron Manipulation

By Kurt Vonnegut


Having tons of rules is one thing. Making people actually believe that they're for the good of the peopleā€”that's something else entirely. George and Hazel Bergeron have bought into the Handicapper General's propaganda hook, line, and sinker. They think it's right that George has to wear weights that tire him out and an ear radio that blasts the noise of breaking bottles directly into his brain every 20 seconds. The mere thought of changing things? Blasphemy! In "Harrison Bergeron," everyone is content with their mediocrity because this government-imposed equality has been brought on not by good education to increase intelligence and rigorous exercise to increase strength, but by weakening those who are deemed smarter and stronger and prettier, bringing them down to the lowest common denominator. We guess that's one way to do it, but there has to be a better way.

Questions About Manipulation

  1. George and Hazel seem pretty content with the way things are in the world, and Vonnegut doesn't give us any reason to believe that other citizens (aside from Harrison) think differently. Why are they satisfied with the status quo? Why doesn't anyone rebel against this oppressive government?
  2. Do you believe that Harrison is as large and imposing as his mugshot makes him out to be?
  3. Why does George believe that he, and everyone else, should be handicapped?

Chew on This

Lowering the strength and intelligence of the people is an almost foolproof way to prevent any uprisings.

You've heard the phrase "you are only as strong as your weakest link"? The American of 2081 is an entire nation of weak links. Or, as Aretha Franklin would say, a chain of fools.

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