Dystopian Elements in "Harrison Bergeron"

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Dystopian Elements in Harrison Bergeron

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Activity Overview


Dystopian literature is a rapidly growing sub-genre of popular fiction. Authors often use dystopias to convey a message about the world we live in today. Dystopias are extremely flawed societies. In this genre, the setting is often a fallen society, usually occurring after a large scale war or other horrific event, that caused chaos in the former world. In many stories, this chaos gives rise to a totalitarian government that assumes absolute control. The flaws in this sort of a dystopia are center around oppression and restrictions on freedom by central authorities.

Students can track elements of the dystopian society of “Harrison Bergeron” as they read. Have students track the six common elements of a dystopia, and then depict these elements in a storyboard along with a supporting quote.


Dystopian Elements in "Harrison Bergeron"

ElementExample from Text
The people are restricted from independent thought and action. Example:

“He tried to think a little about the ballerinas… George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.”

The government in control is often oppressive. Example:

“It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and Empress were dead before they hit the floor. Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.”

The setting is often futuristic, or in a fictional universe. Example:

“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal.”

Contains elements of conformity, or extreme equality. Example:

“They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.”

The government portrays their society as a utopia. Example:

“‘ If I tried to get away with it,’ said George, ‘then other people’d get away with it – and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?’”

The protagonist wishes to restore the people to conventional life. Example:

While Harrison is not the protagonist, he does attempt to buck the system by breaking out of prison, declaring himself better than others by making himself an “Emperor”, forcing the musicians to play improved music, and showing the viewers how to dance unencumbered by governmental handicaps. “Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.”




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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the six elements of a dystopia in "Harrison Bergeron".


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify events or characteristics of the story that fit into the elements of a dystopia
  3. Illustrate the examples for each event or characteristic.
  4. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates "Harrison Bergeron" as a dystopia.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

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