I remember reading a short story back in high school that was similar to Anthem by Ayn Rand about this guy who was very strong and smart. And because everyone in this world had to be equal he was forced to wear weights to slow him down, and he had to wear some device on his head that made it hard for him to see and hear, breaking his focus.

At the end of the story in breaks into a news station and tries like broadcasting a message. And he runs away with one of the ballerinas who has blocks on her feet so it makes it hard for her to dance.


1 Answer 1


That would be Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron", although your recollection of the ending is cheerier than the actual one.

Stealing from the Wikipedia description:

It is the year 2081. Because of amendments to the Constitution, all Americans are fully equal, meaning that no one is allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General's agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear "handicaps": a mask if they are too beautiful, radio earphones with shrill noise to disrupt the thinking of intelligent people, and heavy weights to burden the strong or athletic.

After a rumbling noise, the photo on the Bergerons' TV screen is replaced with an image of Harrison himself, who has stormed the studio. In an attempt to overthrow the government and its handicapping systems, he says that he is the emperor, the greatest ruler in history, and that everyone must obey him. Then he rips off all of his handicaps. He says that the first woman brave enough to stand up will be his empress. A ballerina, presumably the one who reads the report, rises to her feet. Harrison removes her handicaps and mask, revealing a blindingly beautiful woman.

He orders the musicians to play, saying he will make them royalty if they do their best. Unhappy with their initial attempt, Harrison conducts, waving a couple of musicians in the air like batons, and sings. They try again and do better. After listening to the music, Harrison and his empress dance. Defying gravity, they move through the air, flying 30 feet (9 m) upward to the ceiling, then, still in the air, they kiss each other.

Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, comes into the studio and kills Harrison and the empress with a shotgun. Turning the gun on the musicians, she orders them to put their handicaps on in ten seconds, or the same fate will happen to them.

EDIT - Thanks to Dan C for providing the following:
"The ending that Maggick is recalling, with Harrison taking over a radio station and broadcasting things like classical music, is from the Showtime version with Sean Astin"

  • 2
    Spot on. This story is where I gained an appreciation for Vonnegut's work. We had to study it in one of my college classes. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:06
  • 2
    what would they do with someone incredibly dumb or ugly..... Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:17
  • 5
    @Dreamwalker -- It's been a while since I read it, but as I recall, nothing; and that's kind of the worst aspect... Everyone was being lowered to match the lowest common denominator. Remember, tho; this was a short story, and meant to make a point (basically a form of Reductio ad absurdum); I'm not sure he ever addressed things like the mentally ill or violently disfigured -- it wasn't necessary in a short story trying to get an idea across.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:20
  • 2
    @K-H-W be interesting if he had addressed it. I suppose in this day and age if he had wrote it the ugly people would get plastic surgery :) Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:25
  • 2
    @Dreamwalker -- Actually, my first thought was that the Dalek race would have been kind of the ultimate extension of this concept. Stick them inside identical costumes/shells, force their communication through a digital vo-coder, their motions thru mechanical controls (that could be limited in their responsiveness) and so on. And I can just about hear Vonnugut cackling in his grave at the idea of a Cross-over with Doctor Who. (He had a remarkable sense of humor, including about himself and his own works.) :)
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:28

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