Posted in Short Stories

Kurt Vonnegut: Harrison Bergeron


It’s Week 1 of Deal Me In 2015 and it couldn’t start off better than with a short story by Kurt Vonnegut!  I drew the Seven of Hearts which corresponds to one of Vonnegut’s better known stories and one of his best – “Harrison Bergeron”.  I read this story previously when I read the collection Welcome to the Monkey House.  Reading it again only made it that much more enjoyable.


Much of Vonnegut’s work includes either social commentary or humor.  With “Harrison Bergeron”, both are blended almost perfectly.  Harrison, the son of George and Hazel Bergeron, is arrested for not going along with the government regulations of the year 2081. These regulations are designed to keep everyone average and the “same”.  Thinking too much isn’t tolerated. As George and Hazel watch a ballet on television, the program is interrupted by Harrison (on television), who, for a brief moment, is able to provide a glimpse of beauty, a sneak peek at human potential and what art can be when it’s unhindered by the government.

Vonnegut’s wicked humor shines throughout the story.  The methods in which the government keeps people from thinking would be scary if they weren’t so funny.  As I read the story, I can easily imagine the twinkle in Vonnegut’s eye.  I don’t know if there is such a category as dystopian comedy, but “Harrison Bergeron” would belong to it.

Since I’m a sucker for comedy, I’ll end this post with the story’s final lines, an “average” conversation between George and Hazel:

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozey,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee -” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozey.”

My Deal Me In 2015 list can be seen here.  Deal Me In 2015 is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.



Incidentally, prior to this post, Kurt Vonnegut was in a three-way tie with Jack London and Ernest Hemingway for most tagged author on my blog.  He now pulls ahead of his two “colleagues” by one tag.

But wait, now that I’ve mentioned London and Hemingway in this post, I can tag them, too, and it will be even again. I’m not sure that would be fair, though.  And I have no doubt that London and Hemingway will be tagged again soon.

11 thoughts on “Kurt Vonnegut: Harrison Bergeron

  1. Great post to lead off Deal Me In 2015, Dale. (It’s the first one* I’ve seen, anyway) I too have enjoyed reading Harrison Bergeron more than once. It’s sad that some of the values of this “Dystopian Comedy” (love your term) are seemingoy shared by certain parties today…

    *Calling this the first post reminded me of the story on the news this morning where they were trying to determine the first baby born in 2015. 🙂

    1. Yes, I’m really glad I included this one on my list even though I had already read it. I think I appreciated it even more with a second reading. The prospect of a new year of DMI stories is very exciting!

  2. I really love how enthusiastic you are about short stories. It makes me want to read more of them myself, and looking back at 2014, I DID read more short story collections than usual. Thank you!

    1. Yes, over the last few years, I’ve really come to appreciate the short story format. Finishing Fitzgerarld’s “Tales of the Jazz Age” is up next in my reading. I don’t know why it’s taken so long to finish!

  3. Sounds like a fantastic story! I think one of the things I like about Vonnegut is that he comes up with these extremely interesting conceits for stories, and then lets them play out to their logical end.

  4. What a great story to start the new year with a bang!

    “Dystopian comedy” is a perfect descriptor and makes me think of some of the stories by George Saunders, as well.

    1. I have not read anything by George Saunders, but I’ve only heard good things about him and if his stories are like this one, I’m sure I would enjoy his stories, too.

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