I am looking for a short story about a dystopian society that I read in a High School English Lit book. I am pretty sure it was my Jr. year, circa 1991, the book was a few years old, probably published in mid to late 80s. I went to High School in Oklahoma, the story was in English.

I do not know the name of the author either, but I don't believe it was anyone well known (or at least not well-known to an 11th grader in the early 90s).

The story is set in a world where everyone must be equal. The powers that be implement this by handicapping people that have "better" qualities. For instance, I believe there was a ballet dancer on the TV, and the narrator comments that she must be really pretty to have to wear such an ugly mask.

The narrator was a man watching TV at home. His wife seemed to be kind of dull, and he was periodically hit with a shock collar or something to keep him from thinking too deep a thought (he was above average intelligence and this was his handicap).

  • It’s by ray Bradbury
    – CBredlow
    Dec 20, 2017 at 16:06
  • @CBredlow - Nope. Vonnegut. See Mark Olson's answer. Dec 20, 2017 at 16:07
  • @JeffZeitlin yup, that would explain why I couldn’t find it. I knew this question was posted before and I remember this story too and thought it was him
    – CBredlow
    Dec 20, 2017 at 16:09
  • 2
    "Vonnegut" and "I don't believe it was anyone well know" means I needed to go to a better high school. Dec 20, 2017 at 16:15
  • To be fair to the Original Poster's (@KevinMilner) high school, I also read this story in High School English class, and it was before I had heard of Kurt Vonnegut. This was the story that put Kurt Vonnegut "on the map" for me. (There's always a first time to be introduced to an author, and this story in high school English class is a great place for it.)
    – J-L
    Jul 25, 2019 at 21:05

1 Answer 1


That would be "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut.

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. 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. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.


"Yup," said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren't really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. 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.

You can read it online here.

  • Thats it! Thank you! I'll accept in 2 minutes :) Dec 20, 2017 at 16:14

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.