Topic: Harrison Bergeron Summary

from shmoop.com

Harrison Bergeron Story Summary

  • We're transported to the year 2081, and man, we wish we'd stayed home.

  • There have been 213 amendments to the Constitution, and they're all to make people "equal."

  • In this case, "equal" means that anyone who's above average gets handicapped in some way.

  • For example, strong people might be crippled with weights; smart folk might be crippled by having horrible noises blasted in their ears.

  • Anyone who's ever tried to study with a dog barking or leaf blower doing its thing will know how effective this is.

  • (We have a feeling this isn't what people had in mind when they campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment.)

  • George and Hazel Bergeron are watching ballet on their TV.

  • Oppressive, totalitarian government kidnappings always get us in the mood for Swan Lake.

  • They're a little bummed, because the government took away their son Harrison when he was only fourteen years old.

  • Well, actually, they don't seem as bummed as you might expect. See, because he's of above-average intelligence, George has piercing sirens going off in his brain.

  • Thanks, government-installed mental-handicap radio!

  • Hazel talks to George about changes she would make if she were the Handicapper General of the United States.

  • Hm, how about wind chimes instead of hammers breaking glass? Might be more relaxing.

  • George doesn't think it's a good idea to start breaking the rules. He's content where he is: writhing on the couch, clutching his head in pain every time a loud noise gets blasted into his ears.

  • The ballet program is interrupted when one of the ballerinas has an urgent news announcement to make.
    Harrison Bergeron has escaped!

  • They show a photo of Harrison and all his handicaps: heavy scrap metal to weigh him down, glasses to obscure his eyesight, and giant headphones to distract him mentally.

  • Wow, if he's that decked out, he must be one special guy.

  • Suddenly, Harrison himself rips off the door to the stage and storms on screen.

  • What should be a liberating moment is kind of scary, as he announces not that he wants to free everyone, but "I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!" (54).

  • He then claims a ballerina as his Empress (to be fair, she volunteered for the job).

  • The two of them dance, fly through the air, kiss the ceiling, and then kiss each other.

  • This kind-of-romantic, kind-of-scary, all-of-weird moment is cut short when Diana Moon Glampers, Handicapper General, shoots them dead with a shotgun.

  • Revolutions just aren't what they used to be.

  • Just then, the Bergerons' television blows out and goes dark.

  • George wanders back in—evidently, he had gone to get a beer during this whole kerfuffle.

  • Hazel cries, but pretty soon she's forgotten why. George tells her to "forget sad things" (89), which she does almost instantaneously.

  • Then the story ends with a cheesy rimshot: "I could tell that one was a doozy" (92), says Hazel. To which George responds, "You can say that again" (93).

  • So she does. Word for word. Always doing exactly what she's told.

Re: Harrison Bergeron Summary

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

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

  • Poor Hazel Bergeron. If she were Handicapper General, she wouldn't abolish the rules. She would just change them. Talk about brainwashed.

  • In a world where everyone is equal, the Handicapper General is decidedly not equal. She's above everyone else.

  • 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 America of 2081 is an entire nation of weak links. Or, as Aretha Franklin would say, a chain of fools.

  • Average-looking people wouldn't stand against the government because that means all the pretty people would get to take off their masks.

  • Not everything you see on TV is true. It's possible that Harrison's television appearance was staged.