Harrison Bergeron

by: Kurt Vonnegut

Harrison Bergeron

Characters Harrison Bergeron

Harrison represents the part of the American people that still longs to try hard, flaunt their attributes, and outpace their peers. At age fourteen, Harrison is a physical specimen: seven feet tall, immensely strong, and extremely handsome. The government does everything in its power to squelch Harrison, forcing him to wear huge earphones to distort his thinking, glasses to damage his sight and give him headaches, three hundred pounds of metal to weigh him down, a ridiculous nose, and black caps for his teeth. But none of the government’s hindrances, including jail, can stop Harrison. His will to live as a full human being is too strong. The government calls Harrison a genius, but he is remarkable less for his brains than for his bravery and self-confidence. When he escapes from jail, he is utterly convinced that he will succeed in overthrowing the government.

In addition to his remarkable strength of body and will, Harrison has an artistic, romantic soul. He removes his empress’s handicaps with the careful touch of a sculptor. He instructs the musicians in their craft, showing them exactly how he wants them to play by singing to them. He dances so beautifully that he manages to defy gravity, springing thirty feet to the ceiling with his empress, where he kisses her. Vonnegut hints that Harrison is something of a sexual superman, and it is clear that if he succeeds in his plan to overthrow the government, he will father a line of superior children. But the murder of Harrison and his empress shows that in the America of 2081, those who are brave enough to show off their gifts will not be allowed to live, much less procreate.