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Harrison Bergeron Author´s Bibliografy Themes Plot Summary Study Guide Setting Analysis

Character Analysis

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Author´s Biography Kurt Vonnegut Vonnegut has typically used science fiction to characterize the world and the nature of existence as he experiences them. His chaotic fictional universe abounds in wonder, coincidence, randomness and irrationality.


Plot Summary

Exposition

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In the first couple paragraphs, we learn that the America of 2081 is a world with hundreds more rules and regulations than we have now. We also meet George and Hazel Bergeron, two people whose son, Harrison, has been arrested by the government for being all-around too awesome. They're watching ballet on TV. You know, like you do when the government has kidnapped your son.

Rising action

• Things start getting interesting when Hazel starts thinking about changes she would make to the rules if she were Handicapper General. Hey, Hazel, we have a change we'd like to make: get rid of the handicaps! Sadly, that thought doesn't race through her tiny little brain. We can practically hear her one little squeaky gear turning as she fantasizes about being Handicapper General.


Climax

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The highest point of action in the book is when Harrison escapes and storms the stage of the ballet. Heck, Harrison picking his nose would have been more action than we're getting from the dumb ballet and those two couch potatoes, George and Hazel. But Harrison goes above and beyond all expectations.

In his few moments of freedom, he takes a ballerina as his Empress, frees her from her mask, and defies gravity by flying into the air and kissing the ceiling of the auditorium. Then he's shot dead by the Handicapper General, and everything's back to normal.

Falling action

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Not so much "falling action" as "forgetting action." We're not even sure how much he sees, because at some point, he just leaves to get a beer. You'd think someone with above-average intelligence would watch to see what happened to his son, but not George. Hazel did watch what happened, but she soon forgets about it too. The Bergeron philosophy? "Forget sad things". We're going to remember this traumatic event longer than they did, and we're not even related to the kid.


Resolution Say Goodnight, Hazel" "Goodnight, Hazel!" "

There's nothing to resolve here because, to George and Hazel, nothing actually happened. The status quo has returned. Okay, they'll have to get their TV fixed, but aside from that, nothing's changed. In fact, the story ends with a joke: Hazel repeating herself verbatim after George says "You can say that again". But after what we've just seen, it hardly seems funny.


Setting Analysis

• The time is in the future, the year of 2081, which the story simply stated in the very first sentence of the story. The technologies seems more advanced, as the readers can tell from the radio handicap that is tuned to a government transmitter. However, there is a contradicting point, at one point, George and Hazel’s television tube burned out. This television tube indicates that the television is not flat screen, which is what most televisions are now these days.

The place is in the United States of America because it mentioned the Amendments to the Constitution. The place setting also includes the living room in their house. It is because most of the time George and Hazel Bergeron were watching the TV in the living room on the couch. The kitchen that George went in and out for a can of beer wasn’t very far from the living room since the story said George went into the kitchen for a can of beer and right afterwards continued talking about George coming back with the beer. Another place setting can be in the studio were the ballerina that broke the news of Harrison Bergeron escaping from jail, and where he declared himself the Emperor and chose a Ballerina to be the Empress.


Character Analysis

Harrison Bergeron

• Harrison represents the part of the American people that still longs to try hard, flaunt their attributes, and outpace their peers. At age fourteen, Harrison is a physical specimen: seven feet tall, immensely strong, and extremely handsome. The government does everything in its power to squelch Harrison, forcing him to wear huge earphones to distort his thinking, glasses to damage his sight and give him headaches, three hundred pounds of metal to weigh him down, a ridiculous nose, and black caps for his teeth. But none of the government’s hindrances, including jail, can stop Harrison. His will to live as a full human being is too strong. The government calls Harrison a genius, but he is remarkable less for his brains than for his bravery and self-confidence.


George Bergeron

George is an everyman, a character most readers will understand and relate to. Smart and sensitive, George has been crippled by the government’s handicapping program. He makes intelligent remarks and thinks analytically about society, but his mind is stunted.


Hazel Bergeron

Hazel is a one-woman cautionary tale, an average American in an age when “average” has come to mean “stupid.” She does not need a radio permanently affixed to her ear, as George does, because she was never capable of sustained thought. She worries about George and suggests that he remove a few of his weights while he is at home, and she weeps over her son, although she cannot keep him in mind for more than a few seconds at a time. But Hazel is a cautionary tale precisely because her kindness makes no difference. Her stupidity overwhelms her good nature, preventing her from recognizing the absurdity of her society,


Themes

The Danger of Total Equality

Suggests that total equality is not an ideal worth striving for, as many people believe, but a mistaken goal that is dangerous in both execution and outcome. To achieve physical and mental equality among all Americans, the government in Vonnegut’s story tortures its citizens. The beautiful must wear hideous masks or disfigure themselves, the intelligent must listen to earsplitting noises that impede their ability to think, and the graceful and strong must wear weights around their necks at all hours of the day.

The Power of Television

Television is an immensely powerful force that sedates, rules, and terrorizes the characters in “Harrison Bergeron.” To emphasize television’s overwhelming importance in society, he entire narrative takes place as George and Hazel sit in front of the TV. Television functions primarily as a sedative for the masses. Hazel’s cheeks are wet with tears, but because she is distracted by the ballerinas on the screen, she doesn’t remember why she is crying.


Study Guide

What is the setting of the story? _____________________________________ _________ What is the author satirizing? _____________________________________ ____________ What point of view is the story told? _____________________________________ __ What is the theme of the story? _____________________________________ __________


• 1) What has happened to Harrison and why? • 2) How has the government made George and Hazel equal? What does George have to wear? • 3) What is the name of the Handicap General? • 4) Describe Harrison Bergeron with all of his handicaps? • 5) What does Harrison declare on television? • 6) What happens to Harrison? Be specific.


Reference page

• http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/harrison.html

• http:// www.sparknotes.com/short-stories/harrison-bergeron/summ • http://www.bookrags.com/Harrison_Bergeron/ • http:// www.enotes.com/topics/harrison-bergeron/themes

• http:// www.sparknotes.com/short-stories/harrison-bergeron/canaly • http://www.vonnegut.com/ • http://www.vonnegutlibrary.org/about/

• http:// www.avclub.com/article/15-things-kurt-vonnegut-said-better


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