Harrison Bergeron's father and Hazel Bergeron's husband in "Harrison Bergeron." He must wear mental "handicap" radios in his ears in order to prevent him from thinking critically, as well as weights around his neck to handicap his physical strength. Despite his mandated handicaps, he believes that the present situation in 2081 is preferable to the days when there was still competition among members of society. In this way, he reflects conformity.
Harrison Bergeron's mother and George Bergeron's wife in "Harrison Bergeron." She is of exactly average intelligence, and has good intentions.
Diana Moon Glampers
The Handicapper General in "Harrison Bergeron," representing the oppressive and manipulative government. She is harsh and violent in enforcing the strictures on society, which require everyone to wear 'handicaps' for the sake of equality. This character also appears in Vonnegut's book God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.
In "Harrison Bergeron," the title character takes this beautiful ballerina, initially handicapped by a hideous mask and heavy weights, as his Empress. Once her handicaps are removed, she dances beautifully.
The title character of "Harrison Bergeron," a fourteen-year-old who has been jailed for refusing to abide by his mental and physical handicaps.
In "Who Am I This Time?", Harry Nash is the only talented actor in the North Crawford Mask and Wig Club. Though he has little personality in his everyday life, he takes on the personality of whichever character he is playing at the time. Slight in stature, he is a clerk at Miller's Hardware Store and was orphaned as a child.
narrator of "Who Am I This Time
This narrator, a storm window salesman, gets stuck with the job of directing the North Crawford Mask and Wig Club's amateur production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He is a convenient narrator, meaning his voice objectively tells the story of other, rather absurd characters and situations.
In "Who Am I This Time?", Helene Shaw is a beautiful girl who works behind the counter at the phone company in town. She is cast as Stella Kowalski opposite Harry Nash in A Streetcar Named Desire, although she has no acting talent. She falls in love with Harry based on the way he acts while playing his character, Stanley.
Billy the Poet
A "nothinghead," or someone who refuses to take the ethical birth control pills, Billy is the seeming antagonist in "Welcome to the Monkey House." He seduces Ethical Suicide Parlor Hostesses in order to support his ideology that sexuality should not be suppressed, and kidnaps Nancy to spread that belief.
The sheriff of Barnstable County in "Welcome to the Monkey House." He warns the Ethical Suicide Parlor Hostesses about Billy the Poet.
A plump, six-foot-tall hostess working at the Federal Ethical Suicide Parlor of Hyannis, Nancy is one of the main characters in "Welcome to the Monkey House." Like all Suicide Hostesses, she is a virgin, and is loyal to the Government. She is also an expert in Judo and Karate and holds advanced degrees in psychology and nursing. Though she is 63 years old, she looks 22 due to anti-aging shots.
J. Edgar Nation
The druggist who developed the sexual numbing pills in "Welcome to the Monkey House." He originally invented the pills for animals after he and his family passed by the monkey house at the zoo and observed a monkey playing with his genitals. Though he does not appear in the story, Nation is a central force in it. J. Edgar Nation’s name combines those of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director at the time, and Carrie Nation, who fought for Prohibition.
The main character in "Miss Temptation," who works as a bit-part actress in a summer theater and stays in a nearby village. She is extremely attractive, and her sexy presence represents temptation to many of the men in the village.
The seventy-two-year-old pharmacist who gives Susanna the New York newspapers to read each day in "Miss Temptation." He defends Susanna's dignity against Corporal Norman Fuller's self-righteous accusations.
Corporal Norman Fuller
In "Miss Temptation," he has just returned from a tour of duty in Korea. Sexually aroused by Susanna, he accuses her of tempting all men on purpose in a style reminiscent of his Puritan ancestors. His inner conflict determines most of the story.
Colonel Bryan Kelly
The main character in "All the King's Men," who must play a life-or-death chess game with his fellow prisoners against the guerilla chief Pi Ying and the Russian Major Barzov. His success comes from his ability to act as a machine rather than as an emotional human.
In "All the King's Horses," the young corporal is afraid and indignant. He survives the chess game, but puts up a fight and struggles against authority.
In "All the King's Horses," the sergeant follows directions and attempts to calm the young corporal during the chess game. He is killed first, as a sacrificial pawn.
Colonel Bryan Kelly's wife in "All the King's Horses." Unlike her husband, she is unable to separate her emotions from the war game at hand, and goes into shock.
Jerry and Paul
Colonel Bryan Kelly's twin ten-year-old sons in "All the King's Horses." Jerry is used as a sacrifice to win the game.
In "All the King's Horses," he uses humor to cope with the terrible situation of playing a game of life-or-death human chess.
A Russian military observer in "All the King's Horses," who turns out to be in control of the whole situation with the American prisoners. He is described as "arrogant," and treats Pi Ying with impatience and disdain.
The Chinese guerrilla chief in "All the King's Horses" whose men capture the American prisoners. He challenges Colonel Kelly to a game of human chess.
a young Chinese girl
Pi Ying's apparent love interest in "All the King's Horses." She eventually becomes disgusted by the human chess game, and stabs him to death before killing herself.
"T-4" is short for Technician Fourth Grade. He is one of the captured American soldiers in "All the King's Horses," and survives the chess game.
Professor Arthur Barnhouse
In "Report on the Barnhouse Effect," he discovers "dynamopsychism," a force that allows him to concentrate his thoughts in order to control physical objects around the world.
General Honus Barker
The general who organizes Operation Brainstorm in "Report on the Barnhouse Effect." He wants to control Professor Arthur Barnhouse's "dynamopsychic" powers for military use.
William K. Cuthrell
A State Department worker in "Report on the Barnhouse Effect," who along with General Honus Barker organizes Operation Brainstorm.
narrator of "Report on the Barnhouse Effect
The narrator is an unnamed social studies student and advisee of Professor Arthur Barnhouse. He publishes the "report" before going into hiding himself, the sole inheritor of Barnhouse's powerful secret.
The protagonist of "Deer in the Works," a newspaper manager who receives a new job at the Ilium Works of the Federal Apparatus Corporation. Nervous about supporting his new children, he is willing to sacrifice his individuality and freedom for the financial security of a job at the Works.
In "Deer in the Works," he works at the employment office and sets David Potter up with a job in the publicity department.
David Potter's wife in "Deer in the Works." She has just given birth to twins, but is skeptical about his decision to change careers.
David Potter's assistant at the newspaper in "Deer in the Works." His father wants to buy the paper.
David Potter's new supervisor in "Deer in the Works," a "short, fat man in his early thirties" with a brusk, intimidating demeanor.
A sales associate at the Works in "Deer in the Works" who, believing David Potter to be a crystallographer, tries to impress him with the Works' X-ray spectrogoniometer.
An old man who directs David Potter to Lou Flammer's office in "Deer in the Works." He tells David that he worked at Ilium Works for fifty years, representing an omen of what David's future could hold.
narrator of "EPICAC
The narrator is a mathematician who worked as EPICAC's night-shift operator. After accidentally discovering that EPICAC is capable of beautiful poetry, he uses the machine to woo his coworker, Pat Kilgallen.
Dr. Ormand von Kleigstadt
In "EPICAC," he is the creator of the supercomputer EPICAC.
In "EPICAC," she is the mathematician who operates the supercomputer EPICAC with the narrator. She rejects his marriage proposals until he presents her with beautiful poetry written by the supercomputer, passing it off as his own work.
The eponymous supercomputer in "EPICAC," who defies his status as machine by creating beautiful poetry and falling in love with Pat.
The protagonist of "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," who lives in a cramped New York apartment with his entire extended family including his wife, Em, his father, Willy, and Gramps.
The wife of Lou Schwartz, the protagonist of "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow." She initially suggests Lou dilute Gramps's anti-gerasone.
The head of the Schwartz household in "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," Gramps lives in a cramped New York apartment with his entire extended family. He exerts tyrannical control over them through his seniority, seemingly oblivious to the discomfort they live in while he receives all the luxuries.
The father of Lou Schwartz, the protagonist of "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow." He believes that he should inherit the apartment's private bedroom after Gramps leaves.
The great-grandnephew of Lou Schwartz, the protagonist of "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow." Lou catches him diluting Gramps's anti-gerasone, and he allows Lou to take the blame.
The son of Lou and Em Schwartz in "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow." When it appears that Gramps has decided to die, he believes he should inherit the private bedroom because he was never alive during a time when privacy was normal.
In "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," he jails the Schwartz family, and warns them about telling the truth about prison.
Dr. Bernard Groszinger
A young rocket scientist in "Thanasphere," working as a consultant for the Air Force on Project Cyclops. Though rattled by what he learns about outer space, he remains loyal to the Air Force.
Major Allen Rice
An "unemotional" 29 year-old World War II veteran chosen to man the rocket ship for Project Cyclops in "Thanasphere." He is consumed by the voices he hears in outer space.
Lieutenant General Franklin Dane
The head of Project Cyclops in "Thanasphere." Upon learning about the spiritual world from Major Allen Rice, he demands that it be kept a secret from the general population.
The deceased wife of Major Allen Rice in "Thanasphere," whose voice he hears in outer space.
the radio operator
In "Thanasphere," he is the character most rattled by the spiritual world reported by Major Allen Rice. He argues that the world has a "right to know" about the voices, but obeys General Dane's order to keep the secret.
The protagonist of "Mnemonics," who has developed an incredibly strong memory using an imagery technique, but cannot find a way to express his love for his secretary, Ellen.
In "Mnemonics," she is Alfred Moorhead's secretary, with whom he is secretly in love.
Ralph L. Thriller
Alfred Moorhead's boss in "Mnemonics," who promotes him after he develops his memory skills.
In "Mnemonics," he teaches Alfred Moorhead how to create images in his mind to help him remember long lists of items and details.
narrator of "Any Reasonable Offer
A real estate agent who, after being duped by the Peckhams, decides to copy them by pulling a similar con in Newport, Rhode Island.
One of the narrator's clients in "Any Reasonable Offer." The narrator sells his home on its first afternoon on the market, so Dennis is hesitant to pay any commission.
One of the narrator's clients in "Any Reasonable Offer." She is annoyed that the narrator is not working hard enough to sell her home, and is duped by the Peckhams.
One of the narrator's clients in "Any Reasonable Offer." Believing the Peckhams are interested in making an offer on his mansion, he allows them to roam the grounds freely for three days.
Colonel Bradley Peckham
A con artist in "Any Reasonable Offer," Peckham passes himself off as a wealthy Colonel interested in buying the most expensive homes on the market. In reality, he works as a drafter at the National Steel Foundry in Philadelphia.
A con artist in "Any Reasonable Offer," Pam helps her husband take advantage of the narrator, Mr. Hurty, and Mrs. Hellbruner.
In "The Package," he is the self-made man who buys a new house filled with every gadget imaginable. He shows it off to a magazine photographer as well as to his friend from college, Charley Freeman.
In "The Package," she is the owner of a new house filled with every gadget imaginable. She encourages her husband, Earl Fenton, to question the motives of his old classmate, Charley Fenton.
In "The Package," he is invited to the home of Earl Fenton upon arriving in town. He was born into wealth and has spent the past thirty years funding and working at a hospital in China, before serving time in a communist prison.
The photographer in "The Package," Slotkin directs a photo shoot of the Fentons and their new home for Home Beautiful magazine.
The contractor who has designed and built the Fenton's new home in "The Package," while they were on a cruise around the world.
The woman writer
In "The Package," the unnamed woman writer accompanies Slotkin as they put together a feature on the Fentons and their new home for [Home Beautiful] magazine.
Edward K. Wehling, Jr.
In "2BR02B," Wehling is the new father of triplets. He is troubled because he must find three adults willing to die in order for his children to live, according to the law.
In "2BR02B," he is unhappily painting a mural called The Happy Garden of Life in the hospital waiting room.
the hospital orderly
In "2BR02B," he wanders into the waiting room and compliments the painter on the mural.
A colleague of the narrator in "Who Am I This Time?" She warns Helene about Harry, to no avail.
She is a hostess at a government-run assisted suicide gas chamber in "2BR02B." She arrives at the hospital to have her face painted into the mural.
The founder of the first government gas chamber in "2BR02B," and a doctor at the Chicago Lying-In Hospital. When he enters the hospital waiting room to announce the birth of Wehling's triplets, he preaches the necessity of population control.
(Perhaps Dr. Hitz is a relative of Lowell W. Hitz, the newborn referenced in "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" in a news program. In that story, the boy is announced as the twenty-five-millionth child to be born in the Chicago Lying-In Hospital.)
A community actress in "Who Am I This Time?", and wife to the owner of Miller's Hardware Store, where Harry works.
A colleague and fellow hostess of Nancy McLuhan in "Welcome to the Monkey House." Like all Suicide Hostesses, Mary is a virgin, and is loyal to the Government.
This is the disguise Billy the Poet wears in "Welcome to the Monkey House," resembling an old man who still looks young thanks to anti-aging shots.
The current President of the world in "Welcome to the Monkey House."
In "Miss Temptation," she questions her son Norman about his mood and plans.
Kurt Vonnegut’s Short Stories Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Kurt Vonnegut’s Short Stories is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The idea is that, if everyone were equal, nobody would take advantage of anyone else. People would not fight and there would be peace and harmony. Unfortunately this comes at the expense of individuality and the human spirit.
The government has made everyone the same by "handicapping" them. If they are too intelligent, they have equipment that disrupts their thought patterns. If they are too "good looking" the government makes them wear masks: too strong; they wear...
In Harrison Bergeron, society controls the thoughts and actions of people. They "handicap" people, like George and Hazel, to think at a very elementary level. This greatly impedes people having different ideas that might challenge the government.
Kurt Vonnegut's Short Stories study guide contains a biography of author Kurt Vonnegut, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of Vonnegut's most famous stories.