At the end of March of 1997, Dylan began keeping a journal. He was in pain, and nobody understood him. He was “consumed” by thoughts of suicide, and drank alcohol to quell the pain. He envisioned his journal as a “stately tome” and titled it “Existences: A Virtual Book.” There was not even a “hint” of violence in the early pages of the journal—rather, Dylan spoke of being on a “spiritual quest,” longing to stay sober, stop making fun of younger kids, and stop playing video games.
While Cullen portrays Eric as a full-blown psychopath with sadistic tendencies, he seems more empathetic towards Dylan. As Cullen delves into Dylan’s past, it becomes clear that Dylan was initially just a sensitive boy who suffered greatly and felt entirely lost in the world.
Dylan was lonelier than lonely—he felt “cut off” from humanity, and believed most people to be “annoying.” He believed himself to be a “seeker” who beheld the “possibilities and wonder” of life that most human “zombies” could not see. Dylan described his deep belief in God and envisioned himself as “a modern Job.” Dylan planned to kill no one “except, God willing, himself.” He craved death on every page of the journal, but feared committing suicide because of his belief in a “literal heaven and hell.”
While Dylan was clearly depressed and even suicidal, he also had a sense of his own dramatic importance even years before the massacre. He didn’t necessarily see himself as superior to other humans (like Eric did), but he did see himself as special in his suffering and desire for answers, and thus disconnected from all the “unimportant” other people. Dylan’s belief in a literal heaven and hell also shows another side to religion in the book—this time connected to the killers, rather than the victims and community.
Dylan’s journal began a year earlier than Eric’s, and was nearly five times as long. Eric, however, began his journal “as a killer,” and used his diary “not [for] self-discovery but self-lionization.” Dylan, in his journal, was simply “trying to grapple with existence,” describing over the course of two years “the [neverending] battle between good & bad.”
Here Cullen makes it clear that he empathizes much more with Dylan than with Eric. As Cullen describes it, Eric was almost always what he was, while Dylan had a long and tortuous path to becoming a mass murderer.