Harrison Bergeron

From LitWiki
“Harrison Bergeron”
AuthorKurt Vonnegut
CountryUnited States
Genre(s)Dystopia, Science fiction, political fiction
Published inThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Media typePrint (magazine)
Publication date1961

Harrison Bergeron” is a 1961 short story by Kurt Vonnegut.


In 2081, nobody is allowed to be smarter than anybody else, and people who are smarter or more beautiful have to wear handicaps, like face masks or radios that buzz in their ears. These laws are strictly enforced by the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers. Harrison Bergeron has exceptional abilities, so was taken away From his parents George and Hazel when he was only 14. Harrison escapes and invades the television studio in an attempt to overthrow the government. He then takes off his handicaps along with a ballerina's handicap and calls himself the Emperor and her the empress. As they kiss, Diana Moon Glampers kills them both.


Harrison Bergeron

He is the son of George and Hazel Bergeron, he was taken away by the government at age 14. He is seven feet tall and appears to be the most advanced model the human species has to offer. Harrison is imprisoned for refusing to accept the government's regulations on himself and society, but he escapes, removes his handicaps, and in an act of disobedience against the government.

George Bergeron

George Bergeron is Harrison Bergeron's father and Hazel Bergeron's husband. Despite his strength and "far above normal" IQ, George's abilities are limited by state-imposed mental and physical handicaps, making him equal to everyone else.

Hazel Bergeron

Hazel Bergeron is Harrison Bergeron's mother and George Bergeron's wife. Unlike her husband and son, Hazel is described as having "perfectly average" strength and intelligence, she can't think about anything except in brief spurts, hence she has neither mental or physical handicaps. 


The Ballerina is one of the dancers in George and Hazel Bergeron's televised dance performance, which they watch for the duration of the story. She is beautiful and talented, so wears extreme handicaps like weights and an ugly mask. When Harrison Bergeron storms onto the stage and orders, "Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne,"[1] she rises to her feet and joins him. Harrison takes away all of her handicaps, revealing her "blindingly attractive" beauty, and the two of them dance together brilliantly. Diana Moon Glampers shoots and kills Harrison and the Empress after the dance.

Diana Moon Glampers (Handicapper General)

She is the United States' Handicapper General. She is in charge of controlling the minds and bodies of all Americans in order to ensure that everyone is treated equally. She is the one who shot and killed both Harrison and the Ballerina on live television in order to silence their opposition and convey a message to all residents that individualism and skill will not be allowed. 

Major Themes

From the start, it is evident that equality is a major theme. The equality represented in the satire isn't what most people think of when they say they desire equality. The intelligent have their thoughts disrupted by jolting sounds, musicians have an unstated handicap that limits their abilities, and the beautiful wear horrible masks.[2]

A major theme presented in the story is the pessimism of technology. Vonnegut's depiction of science fiction correlating to equality is the absurdity of humanity.[3] The fusion of technology and humanity in this world hinders the capabilities of human variance, causing the destruction of the universe.[4]

Development History

Publication History

“Harrison Bergeron” was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, then later republished in Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House collection in 1968.

Explanation of the Work's Title

Vonnegut named the story after the protagonist Harrison Bergeron, a all-American boy who tries to stage a revolt and change the society.[5] Kurt Vonnegut's brief tale "Harrison Bergeron" has expected to be a noticeable situation on numerous English class' conversation practices due to its serious quest for human correspondence at any expense.[6] This is a good way to understand' psyches on the wondrous capability of the person than to show them Vonnegut's universe of terrible covers for the wonderful, loads for the solid, and difficult idea disruptors for the clever.[6] Few have contended against this translation of the story, which is a little yet significant piece of Vonnegut's philosophical heritage.[7] In any case, "Harrison Bergeron" really fits an elective perusing, that it is adequate to seek after populism through implementing a most minimized shared variable mindset.[7]

Literary Significance and Reception

Awards and Nominations

“Harrison Bergeron” earned Vonnegut the 39th Prometheus award on August 19, 2019 during the 77th World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland.[8]



  1. Vonnegut 2002, p. 138.
  2. Hattenhauer 1998, p. 387.
  3. Klinkowitz 1973, p. 147.
  4. Klinkowitz 1973, p. 148.
  5. Votteler 1991, p. 427.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Stuckey 2006, p. 85.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Stuckey 2006, p. 86.
  8. Library 2019.

Works Cited

Also see the annotated bibliography.

  • Harris-Fain, Darren (2017). "Social and Stylistic Rebellion in Kurt Vonnegut's 'Harrison Bergeron' and Harlan Ellison's '"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman'". Critical Insights: Rebellion. Grey House Publishing. pp. 206–222.
  • Hattenhauer, Darryl (Fall 1998). "The Politics of Kurt Vonnegut's 'Harrison Bergeron'". Studies in Short Fiction. 35 (4): 387–392.
  • Klinkowitz, Jerome (1973). The Vonnegut Statement. Library of Congress. pp. 147–148.
  • Vonnegut, Kurt (2002). "Harrison Bergeron". In Sipiora, Phillip (ed.). Reading and Writing about Literature. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 135–139.
  • Stuckey, Lexi (2006). "Teaching Conformity in Kurt Vonnegut's 'Harrison Bergeron'". Eureka Printing. 7 (1): 85-90.
  • Votteler, Thomas (1991). "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.". In Votteler, Thomas (ed.). Short Story Criticism. Gale Research Inc. pp. 423–438.
  • "Vonnegut wins Prometheus Award for 'Harrison Bergeron'". Kurt Vonnegut Museum Library. August 19, 2019. Retrieved 2021-10-13.

External Links