Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the wake of Eric’s arrest for theft, his parents realize he needs professional help. Wayne Harris searches for a therapist, and makes Eric an appointment for mid-February. He also plans to apply for Eric to complete a juvenile diversion program, which mandates a year of counseling, community services, fines, and fees in an exchange for having the crime removed from Eric’s permanent record. Eric tells his new psychiatrist that he has “anger issues” and thoughts of suicide, and is placed on an antidepressant. Eric and Dylan are forbidden from contacting one another. Eric’s computer access is revoked, and he continues to work on his pipe bombs. On February 15th, just before Eric’s first therapy appointment, Jeffco bomb squad investigators respond to a call reporting a pipe bomb found in Eric’s neighborhood. The investigator summoned “defused the bomb and filed a report.”
The Harrises are desperate to keep their son out of trouble, and to correct whatever has gone wrong in him. Though they take every step they know how to take, Eric continues to evade their intentions entirely, and keeps plotting and building bombs. He glides by right under their noses, which no doubt brings him immense joy and feels to him like retribution for their having punished him.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Eric and Dylan do not tell their friends about their arrest or their punishments. Eventually, though, word gets out, and Eric and Dylan are both humiliated. Eric is “raging mad,” while Dylan retreats into fantasies of finding love with Harriet, and writes of blowing himself up with a pipe bomb if “by love’s choice” she doesn’t love Dylan back.
Dylan and Eric fume over the injustice of their arrest, and Dylan in particular begins showing increased signs of longing for self-annihilation.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Wayne Harris works diligently to get Eric into a diversion program. Meanwhile, Eric is detonating his first pipe bombs in his spare time, and laments not yet having found a “target” for them. Eric’s dreams of human extinction begin to change—on his website, he longs to be an “enforcer” of annihilation, and “rig explosives all over a town.” He wants to “kill and injure as many as [he] can.”
Eric is angry and embarrassed, and lashes out by doubling down on his desire for destruction and retaliation. His rage knows no specific target, and he is desperate to inflict pain on whoever he can.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Dylan, alarmed by Eric’s rants, gives Brooks Brown Eric’s web address and tells him to look at it, but not to tell Eric that Dylan pointed him there. Brooks checks the website, sees that he himself is threatened personally several times, and tells his mother. His parents call the cops, who follow up and file reports, but do not alert the DA’s office—as a result, Eric and Dylan still get into the diversion program.
Dylan is angry, humiliated, and upset, but still at this point has enough self-awareness to realize that Eric is dangerous. He even attempts to warn Brooks Brown, but ineffectual local officials do not delve any further into the Browns’ claims about Eric.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
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Both Tom and Sue Klebold attend Dylan’s diversion program intake meeting. Dylan and his parents independently fill out an intake form, and then a mediator discusses each set of results with all three Klebolds. Dylan’s parents are shocked by Dylan’s confessions about drinking, but admit that they know their son is “angry, sullen, disrespectful and intolerant.”
Dylan’s parents are still “shocked” by aspects of his life previously unknown to them. They are learning more and more about who their son really is, but are still unable to grasp the full picture.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Wayne and Kathy attend Eric’s intake session, too, and are surprised that on a checklist of thirty “potential problem areas,” they only mark three, while Eric himself marks fourteen—“virtually everything related to distrust or aggression,” including homicidal thoughts. His parents worry that though they can try to control his behavior, they cannot control his moods. Eric, on his website, will write that he only made a “partial” confession in the intake meeting, and continues to describe his desire for humanity to bend to his will, as well as fantasies of “blowing up and shooting up everything he could.”
Wayne and Kathy, too, must admit that they do not know what is going on with their son as well as they might have thought they did. They are not to blame, though—Eric uses his skills to keep himself from them, and to disguise his true intentions. He continues to write in his journal of his dark desires, bragging of how he continues to deceive not only his parents but everyone around him.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
The boys’ intake supervisor, Andrea Sanchez, worries about both boys’ ability to accept responsibility for their actions, but recommends them for enrollment. A Jeffco judge doesn’t believe that this offense is the boys’ first—though both they and their parents claim it is—but is impressed by their “deferential” behavior at their hearing and he approves them for diversion. Fourteen months later, Cullen writes, the judge will “lament how convincing the boys had been, [and] how decepti[ve].”
Eric and Dylan manage to deceive everyone who is in a position to hold them accountable for their actions. The system fails partly because Eric and Dylan are so good at jamming it.
Themes
Failure Theme Icon
Judy and Randy Brown, Brooks’ parents, continue to hound the cops. Investigator Guerra drafts an affidavit for a search warrant of Eric’s house, and even mentions within it the pipe bomb recently discovered near Eric’s house. The affidavit is filed, but is not followed up on “in any way” and no explanation for the inaction is ever provided. None of the “damning” evidence was ever brought before the judge who approved the boys for diversion. Eric, having gotten wind of the Browns’ continued pursuit of him, takes his website down and begins writing the journal, in which he would “record his progress toward the attack and thoroughly explain his motives.”
The boys slip through the cracks of the system, and Eric, perhaps realizing the luck he’s had in evading real trouble thus far, takes his website down and begins making his angry, hateful writings private.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon