HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal
before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter
than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was
stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the
211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing
vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April for
instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in
that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron's fourteen-
year-old son, Harrison, away.
It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very
hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't
think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his
intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his
ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a
government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would
send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair
advantage of their brains.
George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel's
cheeks, but she'd forgotten for the moment what they were about.
On the television screen were ballerinas.
A buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits
from a burglar alarm.
"That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did," said Hazel.
"Huh" said George.
"That dance-it was nice," said Hazel.
"Yup," said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They
weren't really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway.
They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces
were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty
face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the
vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn't be handicapped. But he didn't get
very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his
George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.
Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George
what the latest sound had been.
"Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer," said
"I'd think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,"
said Hazel a little envious. "All the things they think up."
"Um," said George.
"Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?" said Hazel.
Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper
General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. "If I was Diana Moon Glampers,"
said Hazel, "I'd have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of
"I could think, if it was just chimes," said George.
"Well-maybe make 'em real...