Harrison Bergeron

by Kurt Vonnegut
Reviewed date: 2021 Mar 25
5 pages
cover art

To make everyone equal, the Handicapper General gives every citizen a handicap. Strong people carry heavy weights. Smart people wear radios in their ears to interrupt their thinking. Beautiful people cover their faces with a mask. People with good vision wear glasses to make them half-blind.

Enter: Harrison Bergeron. Strong, smart, and markedly under-handicapped. He storms onto the set of a live TV broadcast, declares himself Emperor, sheds his handicaps, and attempts to overthrow the government by sheer force of charisma.

The Handicapper General shoots him dead.

The end.

The story is short, and it's a better thought experiment than it is a story. The thought experiment is: what if we made everyone equal in ability by handicapping people so that nobody is better at anything than anybody else? The result is the absurd world where ballerinas wear ankle weights and strong people carry forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag padlocked around their necks.

But the story itself? I'm not impressed.

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