Harrison Bergeron (Vonnegut)

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Harrison Bergeron
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: In a dystopian future, a young man escaped from jail and rebelled against an oppressive government enforcing equality. He defied gravity with a ballerina, but both were killed to maintain order.

In the year 2081, everyone was finally equal due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution and the unceasing vigilance of the United States Handicapper General. People were equal in every way, including intelligence, appearance, and physical abilities. George and Hazel Bergeron, a married couple, lived in this society where their 14-year-old son, Harrison, was taken away by the government for being too exceptional.

George Bergeron — Harrison's father; above-average intelligence; wears a mental handicap radio; thoughtful, compliant, concerned.
Hazel Bergeron — Harrison's mother; average intelligence; empathetic, caring, forgetful.

One day, while George and Hazel were watching television, a news bulletin interrupted the program. The announcer struggled to speak due to a speech impediment, and a ballerina took over to read the bulletin. She announced that Harrison had escaped from jail and was considered extremely dangerous.

Harrison Bergeron — 14-year-old genius and athlete; extremely tall, strong, and handsome; wears heavy handicaps; rebellious, determined, charismatic.

Suddenly, Harrison appeared on the screen, having broken into the television studio. Harrison declared himself Emperor and demanded that everyone obey him. He tore off his handicaps, which were designed to make him equal to everyone else, and chose a beautiful ballerina as his Empress.

"Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds."

He removed her handicaps as well, and they began to dance together, defying the laws of gravity and motion. As they danced, the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, entered the studio with a shotgun.

Diana Moon Glampers — Handicapper General; enforces equality through handicaps; ruthless, authoritative, controlling.

She shot and killed Harrison and the ballerina before they hit the ground.

"It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor."

She then ordered the musicians to put their handicaps back on, threatening to shoot them if they did not comply.

The television screen went black, and George went to the kitchen to get a beer. When he returned, he noticed that Hazel had been crying but could not remember why. They both tried to forget the sad event they had just witnessed, as they continued to live in a world where everyone was forced to be equal.