Harrison Bergeron

by: Kurt Vonnegut

Motifs

Main ideas Motifs

Noise

The noises broadcast by the government increase in intensity and violence during the course of the story, paralleling the escalating tragedy of George’s and Hazel’s lives. When the story begins, a buzzer sounds in George’s head as he watches the ballerinas on TV. As he tries to think about the dancers, who are weighed down and masked to counteract their lightness and beauty, the sound of a bottle being smashed with a hammer rings in his ears. When he thinks about his son, he is interrupted by the sound of twenty-one guns firing, an excessively violent noise that foreshadows Harrison’s murder. Thoughts about the laws of equality and the competition that existed in the old days are shattered by the sound of a siren, a noise that suggests the extent to which the government has literally become the thought police. As Harrison barges into the television studio, George hears a car crash, a noise that connotes the injury of multiple people. The noise that interrupts George roughly at the same time that his son is being executed on live TV is described only as “a handicap signal,” an ominously vague phrase. Vonnegut suggests that the noise is so awful that it can’t be mentioned, just as the murder of Harrison is so awful that George and Hazel can’t fully comprehend it. The final noise George hears is that of a riveting gun, an appropriate echo of the way Diana Moon Glampers killed Harrison.