Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
‘s short story “Harrison Beregous,” is set in the year 2081 where the government has implemented amendments, which put handicaps on people. Handicaps are enforced by the agents of the United States Handicapper General (H-G) to keep the people equal, no one person is better than the rest. Vonnegut begins the short story with George and Hazel Bergeron watching television. Hazel has “a perfectly average intelligence,” (Vonnegut, Jr. 1) meaning she can only think for a short period of time.
On the other hand, George’s intelligence was way above normal. This causes him to have a “mental handicap radio in his ear” (Vonnegut Jr. 1). The handicap radio transmits a sharp noise every twenty seconds; this keeps George thinking too deeply. The Bergeron’s have a fourteen-year-old son named Harrison who has been taken away by H-G men. As they are watching the ballerina’s on the screen, Hazel has tears on her cheeks but she can not remember why she is crying.
She notes that their dance is pretty, and George agrees. He tries to think about the ballerina’s who are handicapped, and how it is taking away from their beauty and gracefulness. He fiddles with the idea that “maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped” (Vonnegut Jr. 1). George can not think long before a noise hinders his thoughts.
Hazel watches George flinch at the noise, she begins to toy with the idea of her being the Handicapper General. She says he looks drained and should rest his “handicap bag” (Vonnegut, Jr. 2) which weights forty-seven pounds.
She suggests taking some of the weights out but says he can not because if everyone broke the law, their society would go back to its competitive manner. An announcer, who has a speech impediment, struggles to read the announcement. He hands it to a ballerina. She begins reading it and has to apologize for her beautiful voice. The announcement says Harrison escaped from prison. A picture of Harrison shows up, he is heavily handicapped. Cover in hundreds of pound of metal, massive headphone instead of a small radio, glasses to make him blind, and shaved eyebrows to make him less appealing.
A loud noise comes from the T.V., the picture disappears and Harrison himself is there. He declares himself the emperor and shreds himself of his handicaps.
Harrison then asks who is going to be his empress, a ballerina comes forth and takes her handicaps off. The Handicapper General walks in and shoots both dead. The Bergerons’ T.V. burned out.
George came back into the house and sees Hazel on the couch crying. George asks why she is crying, but she can not remember why.