Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On Friday, April 16th, Eric Harris has two goals: acquire ammo and a prom date. Though he and Dylan both plan to be dead within a few days, for now they have a shift at Blackjack to work. Eric has no career plans or college goals, and never has. Dylan has been accepted to the University of Arizona, but hasn’t mailed his tuition deposit yet. Eric has been speaking with a Marine recruiter—to appease his air-force pilot father—but is only using it as a “cover.”
Cullen illustrates the gulf between the banal, or the boring, and the exceptional and the violent which marked Eric and Dylan’s lives in the days and weeks before the attack. Eric appears to have two competing desires—to be a “normal” teen boy, and to be a glorified, legendary mass murderer.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Eric and Dylan’s friends Chris Morris, Nate Dykeman, and Zack Heckler have all worked at Blackjack before—it pays decently and offers the boys lots of opportunities to socialize with “hotties.” Eric has been flirting for months with Susan, a girl who works in another store in the same strip mall. When she comes in to pick up an order that Friday night, Eric gets her number. At Blackjack, Kirgis has sold the franchise, and Blackjack’s new owner announces that Eric is being promoted to shift manager. At the end of their shift, Eric and Dylan both ask for advances, and are paid a total of $320 in cash.
Eric and Dylan were preparing for their “Judgment Day” attack in earnest at this point—seeking cash advances to fund their last grabs at ammo and ordnance, and Eric was attempting to make things happen with Susan—one of the only things on his to-do-before-the-attack list that he had not yet accomplished.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
After work, both boys head together to Belleview Lanes to bowl—their regular Friday night activity. Both boys take early-morning bowling classes three days a week, too. Lately, Eric has been getting into “German shit,” quoting Nietzsche and Freud as often as he quotes Adolf Hitler. He listens to hardcore German rock and “punctuate[s] his high fives [at the bowling alley] with ‘Sieg Heil’ or ‘Heil Hitler.’” Cullen notes that “reports conflict [as to] whether Dylan followed [Eric’s] lead” when it came to the Nazi obsession.
Once again, the gulf between the banal and the horrific emerges. Eric and Dylan were having a normal Friday night—bowling with friends—but the outing was marked by overt and repetitious references to murder, hatred, and genocide.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
The boys head home early. Eric calls Susan, but her mother answers. When she tells Eric that Susan is sleeping at a friends’ house, Eric gets angry—rejection, “especially by females,” is his weak spot. Even though she is struck by his quickness to anger, Susan’s mother offers Eric Susan’s pager number, and he writes her a message. Susan calls Eric from her friend’s house, and the two of them talk on the phone for half an hour. Eric asks Susan if she is busy Saturday night, and she says no. Eric finally has a date to the prom.
Eric’s façade slips in this passage, and he reveals his violent inner self to a complete stranger in an instant at the smallest perceived slight or failure. Eric then returns to his “normal” self when he gets what it is that he wants.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
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