“Harrison Bergeron” is a 1961 science fiction short story by Kurt Vonnegut. It is about a future society in which talented and gifted people are forced to wear handicapping equipment to make them “more normal.”
Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:
In the future everyone is finally equal in every way. How is this possible? Well, the government has their hand in it for sure, and they use handicapping equipment (such as birdshot weights on strong people, and ear piercing bursts of sound on people who concentrate too much) to pull talented people back down to “normal.” In this oppressive environment one couple has a son who dares take on the government restrictions – with some very interesting results.
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.
My Two Cents:
• The good:
- The idea of using handicaps to bring down talented people was both revolting and funny at the same time.
- Harrison is a pretty amazing dude! And the stuff he does at the end is fun to read about.
- The style and tone of “Harrison Bergeron” was quite interesting – being both sad and humorous at the same time. That made it totally fun to read.
• The bad:
- While I liked the character of Harrison, the descriptions of him and his actions seemed a little bit too fantastical. That dance at the end was something else wasn’t it?
• Page Count: 8
• Word Count: 2,201
• “Harrison Bergeron” garnered the following awards:
- It placed 24th in the 1999 Locus All-Time Poll for short stories.
Where you can find “Harrison Bergeron”:
- This short story first appeared in the October 1961 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
- “Harrison Bergeron” is included in the amazing anthology The Road to Science Fiction: Volume 3: From Heinlein to Here.
- You can read an online version of this story here.
Some Interesting Links:
- Did you know that Kurt Vonnegut used his famous book Cat’s Cradle as his thesis for a masters degree in anthropology? Yep. You can learn more about this science fiction author at Wikipedia.
- Special thanks to my good friend Dane for recommending this story!
Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like The First Men, about a group of gifted children, raised in a controlled environment, who evolve into super humans, by Howard Fast.