Character Analysis of George Bergeron in Harrison Bergeron

George Bergeron is Hazeld’s husband and Harrison Bergeron’s father in the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. George is an everyman character, who is almost all readers can understand and relate to. George is an intelligent man who has a tendency toward intense thinking that is interrupted by noises from a radio every 20 seconds, preventing sustained concentration. To “balance” his physical strength, he has to wear weights around his neck to make him average. However he is not bold or revolutionary like his son. He believes in obeying the rules.

Because of this, George Bergeron is a perfect metaphor for society. Even though George has mental and physical talent, he isn't special spiritually. George's attitude towards forced equalization is doubtful. He follows the General Handicapper's law, rejecting his wife's suggestion that he rest his handicaps at home because he fears punishment. A man who respects the law, believes that the United States in 2081 is a better place than when there was competition. While watching the disabled dancers on television, he considers that the disabilities are for the best, since the mediocre dancing ensures that no one feels inferior to them. However, George notices that the dance is bad and it might be worth watching them dance without handicaps, but he is interrupted by the noise before he can pursue the idea. George, a slightly above average person with a healthy respect for the rules, supports the reader, who may be very willing to comply with government regulations that obstruct individual liberties and uniqueness. By showing George’s sad existence, Vonnegut asks us to question our own passivity and perhaps our support for the law. Although George is upset about his son's imprisonment and murder, his loyalty to the state and his inability to think for himself make it difficult to find any meaning or political resolution in the experience of losing his son. George's compliance with the handicap general represents a passive mode of citizenship that neglects to criticize authority in society.

One of the biggest symbols in “Harrison Bergeron” are the handicaps. They literally limit society. The weight drags them down and their constant interrupted thoughts allow no room for deep thinking and teach people that if they think, they will be punished. The noise in George’s radio distracts him constantly from his thoughts, and thus the real issues of society. While he can think of them, he cannot dwell on them. The radio resembles very directly the noise of everyday life, rumors, news, speeches, all types of information that is thrown at us all the time, not allowing us to focus on the real issues. Pertinent thoughts and information is lost in the noise of everyday life. The effect of George being an everyman character, is that any reader can relate to him. We aren't given direct explanations as to why he believes in the law, even when it’s hurting him. He might be the guy who wouldn't dare move the boat, not even to let other people know he's sinking. He could be the man who is too caught up in work and society that he's too tired to worry. Or maybe George is the guy who is so beat down by the rules and regulations of the government that he literally cannot do anything else.

Excessive regulation has cost him his freedom and his desire to really live. In conclusion, there is a lot of symbolism embedded in the story. Its criticism on society makes the story very interesting. George Bergeron is a fairly interesting character when you analyse him. His stubbornness to follow the law blindly is a mirror for humanity. The fear of punishment and returning to the “dark ages” when there was competition really puts into perspective our view of equality. Especially when the author uses in media res and immediately throws us into this dystopian society filled with laws that we don't know without explaining them. The reader slowly understands the situation. Writing boring characters can be successful if its done well. Yes, George himself is dull but his situation is not and what he represents isn't either, which keeps the reader interested as the plot unfolds.

11 February 2020
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