Harrison Bergeron

by

Kurt Vonnegut

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Harrison Bergeron Character Analysis

Harrison Bergeron is the 14-year-old son of George and Hazel Bergeron who, at the beginning of the story, has been taken away by agents of the U.S. Handicapper General. Harrison is an extraordinarily smart, athletic, handsome individual who faces extreme governmental regulations on his natural gifts and abilities, including severe physical and mental handicaps to limit his nearly-superhuman strength and intelligence. Harrison’s refusal to accept the government’s regulations on himself and society leads to his imprisonment, though he escapes from prison, removes his handicaps, and—in an act of dissent against the government—un-handicaps a ballerina and a ballet orchestra to stage a transcendent dance performance on live TV. Harrison’s dissent, which relies on the power of individualism and art to reach oppressed citizens watching TV from home, ends when the Handicapper General executes him in the midst of his dance. While Harrison clearly views his actions as a heroic coup against the totalitarian government, his own parents’ inability to remember—let alone find meaning in—their experience of Harrison’s art and their subsequent grief at his death puts into question whether his sacrifice of his life to oppose the government will have any effect at all. Though Harrison represents the power and beauty of art and individualism in a society in which everyone is forced to be mediocre and alike, Vonnegut’s ending is somewhat pessimistic, in that Harrison’s life and death seem not to have been particularly impactful on society overall.

Harrison Bergeron Quotes in Harrison Bergeron

The Harrison Bergeron quotes below are all either spoken by Harrison Bergeron or refer to Harrison Bergeron. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Equality vs. Individualism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Delta Trade Paperbacks edition of Harrison Bergeron published in 1998.
Harrison Bergeron Quotes

The music began again and was much improved. Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it. They shifted their weights to their toes. Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers. And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang! Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.

Related Characters: Harrison Bergeron (speaker), Ballerina/Empress (speaker)
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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Harrison Bergeron Character Timeline in Harrison Bergeron

The timeline below shows where the character Harrison Bergeron appears in Harrison Bergeron. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Harrison Bergeron
Equality vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Media and Ideology Theme Icon
...all is not wholly perfect—“H-G men” have taken away George and Hazel Bergeron’s teenaged son, Harrison. Though this is tragic, the Bergerons “couldn’t think about it very hard,” since Hazel can’t... (full context)
Equality vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Media and Ideology Theme Icon
Dissent vs. Authority Theme Icon
...by a speech impediment, so a ballerina reads the bulletin instead. She informs viewers that Harrison Bergeron has recently escaped from jail after being “held on suspicion of overthrowing the government.”... (full context)
Equality vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Media and Ideology Theme Icon
Dissent vs. Authority Theme Icon
The Power of the Arts Theme Icon
A loud noise interrupts the bulletin, the source of which is Harrison Bergeron tearing down the door to the television studio on-screen. Harrison declares himself Emperor and... (full context)
Equality vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Dissent vs. Authority Theme Icon
The Power of the Arts Theme Icon
The pair sways to the music, and eventually, “in an explosion of joy and grace” Harrison and the ballerina spring in the air and float up to the ceiling. They kiss... (full context)
Equality vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Media and Ideology Theme Icon
Dissent vs. Authority Theme Icon
The Power of the Arts Theme Icon
...Glampers, the Handicapper General, barges onto the scene with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She shoots Harrison and the ballerina, who die before they hit the ground. She then instructs the musicians... (full context)