Harrison Bergeron
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Harrison Bergeron

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  5,210 ratings  ·  266 reviews
It is the year 2081. Because of Amendments 211, 212, and 213 to the Constitution, every American is fully equal, meaning that no one is stupider, uglier, weaker, or slower than anyone else. The Handicapper General and a team of agents ensure that the laws of equality are enforced.

One April, fourteen-year-old Harrison Bergeron is taken away from his parents, George and Haze...more
ebook, 9 pages
Published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (first published January 1st 1961)
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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins1984 by George OrwellThe Giver by Lois LowryDivergent by Veronica RothBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
230th out of 1,829 books — 16,254 voters
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutCat's Cradle by Kurt VonnegutBreakfast of Champions by Kurt VonnegutThe Sirens of Titan by Kurt VonnegutMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut's Best
20th out of 35 books — 443 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This short story takes about 5 minutes to read and it is absolutely worth it. It is set in a society where, in an effort to make everyone equal, anyone who is above average in any respect is given mechanisms or hindrances by the government to suppress whatever it is they can do. If they are mentally gifted, the Handicapper General (It was written in 1961) gives them an earpiece which plays annoying noises when they are thinking. If a person is attractive, they are forced to wear masks.

The story...more
In the year 2081, due to the 211th, 212th and 213th Amendments, people are equal (literally). If one person is "above" others then he or she gets assigned some kind of "handicap" which makes smarter people less smart, prettier people less pretty and athletic people weaker. The objective is to erase all traces of individuality.
Harrison Bergeron is not only smarter that most, but he's also very strong and handsome....so he gets an abundance of handicaps.

The rest of Harrison's appearance was Hallo...more
Jul 19, 2011 Erin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Erin by: StumbleUpon
Shelves: dark, dystopia
A (hopefully) short review for a short story...

I ran into this on StumbleUpon, so I figured I might as well review it. This is a short story, a dystopian world with the same ultimate goal as in the Uglies series. However, this one succeeded in frightening me in a way that Uglies never did.

This is a society where equality is everything. No one is allowed to excel in any area, and the government enforces this strictly-- beautiful people must wear grotesque masks, athletic people carry heavy loads...more
Damn you Vonnegut!!

All these years you let me think that 1984 is one of it's kind.
For god knows how long have I felt awed by the world Orwell imagined 1984 to be.

And here comes a SOB who writes stories which take hardly 5 minutes to read and leaves the reader scarred for life. In spite of the dominance of Orwell and presence of Fahrenheit 451 on the similar lines, Vonnegut is able to deliver the message safely and eloquently.

The story is set in the future when 'Equality' is the norm and 'Comp...more
There are two paths to equality: elevating some people, and breaking others. Actually, ignoring for a moment the second option (which is the theme of Vonnegut's story), the first is pretty divisive all by itself. All our modern political ideologies seem concerned with it, after all - the extent to which a society, a government, should be responsible for its people, and whether helping each other actually infringes on some inalienable right of not having to help each other.

The reality is that al...more
Took me mere minutes to read, but my God, Vonnegut does it again.
A world where everybody is equal, hauntingly so. If you're beautiful, you wear a mask, the more beautiful you are, the uglier the mask. And God forbid, you're actually intelligent. If you are, there are sporadic bursts of noise emission from little mechanical devices that should be enough to scatter your thoughts. Other than that, there are handicap bags. The more capable you are, the heavier your bags.

Read online here: Harrison B...more
Wow. I wasn't sure, at first, about how good this was going to be. For a moment there, it almost seemed to be just crazy, but then, the ending came and made everything clicked into the right place. Maybe the best spent five minutes of the day. Well, not counting when I was watching my dog chasing her tail, of course. (view spoiler)
Ken Moten
"Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime."

This is my first official Vonnegut story read for class. It is in simple terms an extremely abridged version of the type of universe that Fahrenheit 451 exists in.

But this story differs from F-451. While Bradbury's dystopia was an extreme regulation and limiting of information and ideas, Vonnegut's dystopia limited you physically as well as mentally.

What may surpr...more
Ali Fawad
This seems to me like a more diluted version Aldous Huxley's Brave New World where there was complete unity in a class, however not among the classes themselves.

An extremely creative take on a dystopian future. This takes equality among people to the extremes! The writing is simplistic and easy to understand, the plot is even more so; yet the way Vonnegut writes makes the most simple of plots amazing stories. I'm amazed to how he was able to develop fairly decent characters in only 9 pages, make...more
Brilliant satire depicting a future America where every American is kept fully equal, meaning that no one is smarter, better-looking, stronger, or faster than anyone else. The Handicapper General and a team of agents ensure that the laws of equality are enforced. The government forces citizens to wear "handicaps" (a mask if they are too handsome or beautiful, earphones with deafening radio signals to make intelligent people unable to concentrate and form thoughts, and heavy weights to slow down...more
Aug 27, 2011 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Beth by: Flannery
An awesome short story. Very concise, and Vonnegut's punchy, matter-of-fact style suited the creepy story perfectly. The only thing I would have preferred is if (view spoiler) I don't know why. I couldn't see how it was an advantage and, as there are a lot of very gifted people, I think it would have felt more in-line. That just seemed like a random detail which jarred with the surprising realism of the story. Follow Flannery's link, and enjoy. an...more
Jan 04, 2012 Lissa added it
Shelves: 2012
In this dystopia future, everyone is made equal by handicapping natural advantages such as beauty or intelligence.

One intelligent behemoth of a man dares to break out of his handicaps.

It sure makes you think about the nature of equality and if this future is possible with the way we're heading.

It's a short story - five minutes maximum - so you won't lose anything by reading this. At most it will make you think. And even in this story, that's a good thing.
Lit Bug
A dystopian short story by Vonnegut, it describes an eerie world where everyone is equal in every way - or rather, forced to be absolutely equal. The story is centered on the parents of Harrison Bergeron, who is forcibly taken away by the State for being above average in brains and beauty.

The actual story is of little consequence here - Vonnegut's strengths lie in his ability to tear apart our hearts in a matter of minutes. The anguish of his parents is heart-breaking, and the recurring sounds i...more
A great short story with multiple layers - I feel like discussing this during my freshman year of high school and my freshman year of college would leave me with two different interpretations. Is Vonnegut satirizing egalitarian society? Is he satirizing satire? He infuses the story with clever and ironic descriptions to show its depth in subtle ways. Highly recommended for anyone searching for a solid story that will take only a few minutes to read but will leave you with several days worth of t...more
Dani (The Pluviophile Reader)
Story available here:


I read this story last week and it has stuck with me ever since. The story itself took me less than five minutes to read but it is a strong reminder that about the importance of individuality and expression. What's scary is how real a situation like this could unfold; an idea that is taken up for the greater good that destroys what uniqueness we as individuals have leading to unhappiness, unrest and absolute control of our bodies and m...more
As I read this short story, I couldn’t help comparing it to The Giver . Though I haven’t read The Giver in a very long time, I believe that the main character lives in a society in which everyone is expected to look and act the same way. I can’t remember how the book ends, but I was disappointed with the way this short story ended. Overall, it’s a decent read and made me appreciate the freedoms I do have.
Rachel Jackson
I could tell I wasn't going to like "Harrison Bergeron" when author Kurt Vonnegut expected there to have been 184 constitutional amendments added between this story's publication and 2081. Sure, I get it's fiction, and even science fiction — but in no conceivable reality could there ever be that many amendments so quickly.

In terms of the actual story, that of a future dystopia where everyone is handicapped so they are equal beings, the trajectory was interesting until the end. Key word: until. N...more
Puri Putri
I've lost my mind in less than 5 minutes when I reached the last part of this provocative, magnificent, yet well written short story of Kurt Vonnegut. The idea of "equality society" in totalitarian system would have always different in front of my eyes. Equality shall be based on individual rights or we may touch upon on collective rights, that is completely different from Vonnegut's vision on its story. The big system on this world would control everything and anyone based on the idea of "equal...more
Amanda (Mature in Portuguese, but so Juvenile in English!
It is a better version of Atlas' Shrugged. It shows the importance of meritocracy without being too naive about capitalism or exagerated libertarianism. You don't have to be right wing or left wing to enjoy it, and it's much better written.

Aaaand you finish this in 5 minutes. So, if you're ever lazy to read Atlas' Shrugged just because everyone talks about it (and I don't blame you for it), you can say that you read something better in only one bus ride to work.
C.S.  Ferrier
This story is referenced in several of Kurt Vonnegut's other books, I'm glad that it wound up being it's own story.

In a world where all are equal, those who were intelligent, beautiful, strong and talented are made average with ear splitting interruptions, hideous masks, weights and chains.

A interesting reversal of eugenics.
Keru Faye
It's good to read a decent dystopia every now and then.

I found this while browsing around on Reddit and decided to read it since it was short. The poster offered it as a sort of critique on the mentality of some social justice folks, and I think it does get the point across effectively, even if it is somewhat outdated now.

It's refreshing to find a dystopia that could also feasibly happen (or at least uses it to make an actual statement about society). While it probably wouldn't occur in the sam...more
A friend at work handed me this to read (thanks a lot, Kara!) and now I can't get it out of my head. I work with children with special needs so my interpretation of his writing may be different from others, but nonetheless, this piece stays with you for awhile - but then again, doesn't most of his writing....thank goodness it is a short story.
super human = under-handicapped
This made a great discussion starter in both my 21st Century Democracy class as well as my Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics class. It deals with the question of how far society should go to try to provide "equality" for all. It's short - the students read it at the beginning of class and the discussion quickly took off. Would you want to be Handicapper-General?
Byron  'Giggsy' Paul
Apr 06, 2012 Byron 'Giggsy' Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of dystopias, sci-fi, vonnegut
a great short story, very short actually, that all fans of dystopias should read. classic for any sci-fi fan. Its a great example of how a really short story can be great, most works of this length just fail to be anything substantial. In the end, the brevity is still what keeps this from being 5-star in my mind. It's like reading 1984 in 5 minutes.
Nyamka Ganni
Mar 19, 2013 Nyamka Ganni rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nyamka by: Hanper Tim
Shelves: shorty, fiction
very interesting short story... strangely well-written .

I'm at a loss for words to describe, it's like where failed-attempt-to-create-better-society meets satirical humor and absurdity.

PS: wish it had a novel... I would very much like to hear more about what that Diana Moon Glampers had to say? :D

/...waiting to watch the movie/
I suddenly absolutely love Vonnegut!
Though I have read 'Harrison Bergeron' several times, every re-reading still evokes feelings of great outrage and provokes deep thought. It tells the story of a future America where all are rendered 'equal' by placing handicaps on those with various superior traits, such as masks for the beautiful, ear radios to scramble the thoughts of the intelligent, weights around the necks of the physically strong. And yet their society is equal for none as the more skilled are given more burdens than the l...more
This story scared me. It's mental, and it basically has no real plot.
The plot in my mind: Harrison escapes, Harrison takes over, Harrison dances, Harrison gets shot. End of story.
Like, what? ._.
Rishabh Chaudhary

One time in my Organizational Behavior class the teacher kept speaking in favor of reservation (he gave more lectures on social issues than his subject). His argument-"See I am tall, so I will always win at basketball. I have an unfair advantage over others, that's why they deserve some reinforcement. Same thing with college admissions and jobs. Think about it and you will realize it is for greater good."
Then he started his usual talk on Equality, Fraternity and Liberty.

I am...more
Andrew Gillette
This is a short story of what would society be like if Government in trying to make everybody equal, handicapped the average and more gifted. This is a brief dystopian classic.
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Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journali...more
More about Kurt Vonnegut...
Slaughterhouse-Five Cat's Cradle Breakfast of Champions The Sirens of Titan Mother Night

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“He tried. That's the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.” 2 likes
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