Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 50 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Eric, wanting to be remembered, decides to begin recording videos laying out his plans. On March 15th, 1999, he and Dylan begin to make the Basement Tapes, using a camcorder borrowed from the Columbine video lab. The boys drink alcohol and hold their guns in their laps while they rant “for more than an hour” in just the first installment—insulting “Blacks, Latinos, gays, and women,” and outlining the details of their attack. They describe individual students they hate and hope to kill, and envision themselves getting shot by “fucking cop[s].” Not one of the students mentioned in the tapes would be killed in the shooting. The boys describe their rage, both apologize to and berate their parents, and show off their vast arsenal of ordnance
Eric and Dylan’s desire for fame, glory, and a legacy to leave behind, combined with their desire to show off their strength, prowess, and superiority, leads them to make recordings—going one step further even than their individual journals. The boys want for their rage to be seen and known, though their statements on the tapes sometimes conflict with their written desires for indiscriminate annihilation.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
In another session, three days later, the boys “gush” over the idea that “[movie] directors will be fighting over this story,” and wonder whether Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino would do their tale due justice.
The boys’ desire to have their story on film is more about their desire for glory and legacy than their love of violent films—which is the angle the media incorrectly homed in on.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Eric, struck with a new idea, attempt to recruit Chris Morris to expand the range of the attack. Eric “joke[s]” with Morris about stringing up a trip bomb behind Blackjack, but Chris is “unenthusiastic.” Chris begins to grow worried—he knows that Eric and Dylan have made a ton of bombs, and has heard that they have guns, too. Chris notices Eric growing more aggressive, and the boys’ friend Nate Dykeman notices that they are cutting classes and acting “secretive.” Neither Chris nor Nate say anything to anyone—not teachers, not parents, and not the authorities.
Eric was not quiet or shy about his plans. Though he presented his desire for annihilation and destruction as a “joke” to Chris, whom he hoped to involve in his plans, he set off a fearful reaction that led to Chris’s rejection. Yet neither Chris nor Nate, despite their fears about Eric and Dylan, chose to come forward and speak up—perhaps they did not take the boys seriously, or didn’t want to seem like tattle-tales.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Eric attempts to recruit Chris several more times, joking about killing jocks and blowing up the school. Dylan, too, is “leaking indiscriminately,” displaying the pipe bombs in public. Eric tells Zack Heckler he’s trying to make napalm, and asks Chris if he can store the napalm at his house. Chris refuses. With less than a month to go until the attack, Eric makes a list in his journal of things he has left to do: one item on the list is “get laid.” He talks with a Marine recruiter, and goes so far as to meet him, telling the Sergeant that he is “interested in weapons and demolitions training.”
The “leaking” phenomenon speaks to the boys’ underlying insecurity about their impending attack. Their desire to bring more people on board perhaps indicates that they were afraid that just the two of them could not succeed on their own. Yet their friends and acquaintances fail to understand the import or gravity of what Eric and Dylan are telling them. Eric even “leaks” to a Marine recruiter, shamelessly broadcasting his interest in violence and spectacle.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
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The boys continue to make tapes over the weekend of the Prom, and Eric stashes the propane bombs he’s made at Dylan’s house. They show off for the camera the outfits they plan to wear during the shooting, and practice their moves. Eric is much more skilled than Dylan at handling the firearms. Monday night, the night before the shooting, the boys go out together with some friends to Outback Steakhouse. Eric acquires the last of the ammunition, and stays up late planning and recording “audio memoirs” on a cassette recorder. On Tuesday morning, the boys are up early—Dylan leaves his house at 5:15, calling out the word “Bye” to his parents as he steps out the door. Eric, meanwhile, leaves the cassette tape of “audio memoirs” on the kitchen counter, to be found.
The boys are concerned about how they will look and move during the attack—everything they are doing, including the tapes, is for an audience which they want to fear, worship, and glorify them. When the morning of the attack arrives, they leave behind the records of their planning and show no signs of hesitation, remorse, or fear that their plan will fail.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon