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Harrison Bergeron

Harrison Bergeron

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Harrison Gorga"
Author Kurt Vonnegut
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Dystopia, Science fiction, Political Fiction, short story
Published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1st release)
Publication type Periodical
Media type Print (Magazine)
Publication date 1961

"Harrison Bergeron" is a satirical, dystopian science fiction short story written by Kurt Vonnegut and first published in October 1961. Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the story was re-published in the author's collection, Welcome to the Monkey House in 1968.



[edit] Plot summary

In the story, social equality has been achieved by handicapping the more intelligent, athletic or beautiful members of society. For example, strength is handicapped by the requirement to carry weight, beauty by the requirement to wear a mask and so on. This is due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the United States Constitution. This process is central to the society, designed so that no one will feel inferior to anyone else. Handicapping is overseen by the United States Handicapper General, Diana Moon-Glampers.

Harrison Bergeron, the protagonist of the story, has exceptional intelligence, strength, and beauty, and thus has to bear enormous handicaps. These include headphones that play distracting noises, three hundred pounds of weight strapped to his body, eyeglasses designed to give him headaches, a rubber ball on his nose, black caps on his teeth, and shaven eyebrows. Despite these societal handicaps, he is able to invade a TV station, declare himself Emperor, strip himself of his handicaps, then dance with a ballerina whose handicaps he has also discarded. Both are shot dead by the brutal and relentless Handicapper General. The story is framed by an additional perspective from Bergeron's parents, who are watching the incident on TV, but because of his father's handicaps, and his mother's average intelligence, they cannot concentrate enough to remember it.

A similar (though less developed) version of this idea appeared in Vonnegut's earlier novel, The Sirens of Titan.


[edit] Hollywood film

In 2009, Hollywood veterans Julie Hagerty, James Cosmo, Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson, and Armie Hammer starred in a film adaptation of "Harrison Bergeron" directed by Chandler Tuttle. The film was entitled 2081 and premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival. Unlike the 1995 movie, the film version is a close adaptation of Vonnegut's story. The main speech by Harrison Bergeron reflects the spirit of rebellion from the original story but differs in that the lead character doesn't claim to be the "emperor of the world." The film was released on January 25, 2010.[1]


[edit] TV film

One segment of the 1972 teleplay Between Time and Timbuktu was based on the story, and it was later adapted into a TV movie, Harrison Bergeron (1995) with Sean Astin in the title role. The TV movie is a dramatic departure from Vonnegut's original short story. In this 1995 made for television movie, after the handicapping devices are discovered to be ineffective against Bergeron, he is recruited to become a member of the secret unhandicapped elite who keep society running. Eventually disgusted by their duplicity, Bergeron commandeers a TV station in order to broadcast censored materials to the masses. Bergeron is eventually stopped by the government, and later forced to apologize, claiming that the incident was an act. During this on-air apology, Bergeron breaks from his script and commits suicide after explaining that it was not an act. The film shows Harrison's son as he watches old clips of his father from TV. The mother of Harrison's child, a now-lobotomized former member of the elite society, hears Harrison's voice as her son watches the television, and clearly recalls something of Bergeron.

[edit] In the real world

  • In 2005 the story was quoted by attorneys in a brief before the Kansas Supreme Court. Vonnegut was quoted as saying that while he didn't mind the story being used in the suit, he disagreed with the lawyers' interpretation of it.[2]
  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia quoted the story in PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin.
  • ABC's John Stossel frequently quotes the story and the title of the U.S. Handicapper General

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links