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 Hazel, by the government. George and Hazel aren’t fully aware of the tragedy. Hazel’s lack of awareness is due to average intelligence. In 2081, those who possess average intelligence are unable to think for extended stretches of time. George can’t comprehend the tragedy because the law requires him to wear a radio twenty-four hours a day. The government broadcasts noise over these radios to interrupt the thoughts of intelligent people like George.
Hazel and George are watching ballerinas dance on TV. Hazel has been crying, but she can’t remember why. She remarks on the prettiness of the dance. For a few moments, George reflects on the dancers, who are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to counteract their good looks. They have been handicapped so that TV viewers won’t feel bad about their own appearance. Because of their handicaps, the dancers aren’t very good. A noise interrupts George’s thoughts. Two of the dancers onscreen hear the noise, too; apparently, they are smart and must wear radios as well.
Hazel says she would enjoy hearing the noises that the handicappers dream up. George seems skeptical. If she were Handicapper General, Hazel says, she would create a chime noise to use on Sundays, which she thinks would produce a religious effect. The narrator explains that Hazel strongly resembles Diana Moon Glampers, Handicapper General. Hazel says she would be a good Handicapper General, because she knows what normalcy is. Before being interrupted by another noise, George thinks of his son, Harrison.
Hazel thinks George looks exhausted and urges him to lie down and rest his “handicap bag,” forty-seven pounds of weight placed in a bag and locked around George’s neck. He says he hardly notices the weight anymore. Hazel suggests taking a few of the weights out of the bag, but he says if everyone broke the law, society would return to its old competitive ways. Hazel says she would hate that. A noise interrupts the conversation, and George can’t remember what they were...