Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Insanity, Dr. Fuselier knows, is “marked by mental confusion.” Eric Harris’s journals reveal a cold but highly rational kind of calculation. Fuselier also notes that Eric is both charming and callous, as well as manipulative and egocentric. Most alarmingly of all, Eric seemingly has no empathy: he fits the bill of a textbook psychopath. Fuselier attempts to attack his own hypothesis, but finds that diagnosing Eric with psychopathy holds up against every inquiry. This diagnosis then establishes the foundation for understanding the crime.
Fuselier, after taking many measures to make sure that his theory is right, prepares to look at the case with fresh new eyes. Knowing that Eric was a psychopath allows him to get closer to understanding why the attacks occurred, and how.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Psychopathic brains, Cullen writes, are distinguished by two characteristics: a ruthless disregard for others and, secondly, a gift for disguising that disregard completely. Psychopaths come off as charming and inviting, not “evil” or insane. Lying, and finding joy in lying, is a “signature” trait of a psychopath. Scans of the brain waves of psychopathic brains reveal “activity unrecognizable as human to most neurologists.”
By explaining the classifications which are required to deem someone a psychopath, Cullen outlines how consistent all of Eric’s behavior up to this point has been with the diagnosis.
Themes
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Another psychological phenomenon within the Columbine attack was the presence of a “dyad,” a murderous pair who “feed” on one another. These partnerships—think Bonnie and Clyde—tend to be “asymmetrical,” and the dyad of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold certainly was. Eric was the ringleader and sadistic psychopath, and Dylan was an angry, erratic depressive.
Again, Cullen introduces the term “dyad” late in the game, so to speak, in order to allow his audience to accept the term as truth, having witnessed Eric and Dylan’s toxic and symbiotic friendship evolve.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
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