Kurt Vonnegut's Short Stories

Characters

  • Harrison Bergeron is the fourteen-year-old son, who is 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, a genius, and an extraordinarily handsome, athletic, strong and brave person. He wants to live as an unimpeded human being and does not want to obey the laws of the government, which has taken on the responsibility of creating equality for the whole American society. He has been jailed by the Handicapper General's office for planning to overthrow the government. To eliminate any "unfair advantages", the Handicapper General forces him to wear the most extreme handicaps reflecting his extraordinary attributes: huge earphones and spectacles intended to make him half blind and give him tremendous headaches, disfiguring makeup in the form of blackened teeth and a red rubber nose to mask his extraordinary looks, and so many weights to compensate his prodigious strength that they make him look more like a junk yard than a man. When he escapes from jail, the government describes him as "a genius and an athlete" and tells people that he should be regarded as extremely dangerous. When Harrison enters the television studio, he is convinced that he can overthrow the government and declares "I am the Emperor! . . . Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!". In addition to this talent and egotism, he also possesses artistic and romantic characteristics. He sings and dances with his Empress, defying gravity while doing so. Tragically, despite Harrison's superior physical prowess and intellectual faculties, he is stopped when the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, shoots him and his Empress down with a shotgun.
  • George Bergeron is Harrison's father and Hazel's husband. A very smart and sensitive character, he is handicapped artificially by the government. Like his son, he has to wear mental handicap earphones in his ears to keep him from thinking intensely and analytically. Because he is stronger than average, he has to wear weights around his neck. When his wife Hazel suggests that he could take these weights off for a while to relax, he rejects the idea. He wants to obey the laws and is unwilling to risk punishment for a little comfort. He believes that the situation in 2081 is better than it had been back in the days when fierce competition reigned in society. He has much respect for the rules and represents the common passive citizen who does not critique a government that manipulates individuals. Obeying the rules, he is even incapable of recognizing the tragic situation when his son has been shot to death - a harsh critique of passiveness towards authority.
  • Hazel Bergeron is Harrison's mother and George's wife. Hazel has what is described as perfectly average intelligence, which means that she cannot think deeply about anything. However, she is a well-intentioned character, a loving wife and mother, who tries to comfort her husband by suggesting he removes his handicap weights. She cries when she sees what happens to her son but due to her impaired faculties quickly forgets the subject of her sorrow. In the end all her kindness counts for nothing as her stupidity outruns her good intentions. Hazel has much in common with the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers.
  • Ballerina, a beautiful dancer who was burdened with an especially ugly mask and excessive weights ("as big as those worn by two hundred pound men"), as she is the fairest, most beautiful and most graceful of the dancers. She reads an announcement card after the stammering announcer is unable to. It is likely, but not stated, that she is the same dancer who Harrison Bergeron takes as his Empress, who is later shot by Diana Moon Glampers for not wearing her handicaps, and dancing with Harrison Bergeron.
  • Diana Moon Glampers, despite appearing in person for only four sentences, represents the oppressive government and enforces the handicapping policies of the government. It is mentioned early on that Hazel resembles Diana, and Hazel mentions improvements she would make to Diana's handicap regulations. She appears ruthless when she kills Harrison and his Empress without warning, and threatens the musicians with a similar fate before the broadcast is interrupted, leaving their future ambiguous. Diana's first and middle names are possibly a reference to Diana, the Roman huntress, virgin goddess of the moon.[3]

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