Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Columbine can help.

Columbine: Chapter 52 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The boys shoot one more video on the morning of the attack. They apologize to their parents, but insist that the attack is something they have to do.
The boys’ apologies are thin and lazy. They know exactly how serious the violence they are about to perpetrate will be.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
The shooters spend five minutes firing outside the school, killing two. They advance inside and spend another five minutes holding off deputies, shooting Dave Sanders, and roaming the hall in search of targets. They begin deploying pipe bombs into the commons. The boys walk past the library the first time they go by, but then they circle back to the “highest concentration of fodder they had seen.” Out of the fifty-six people inside, the shooters kill ten and injure twelve before getting “bored.” At 11:36, seventeen minutes into the attack, the shooters leave the library, and do not shoot another student again. As the shooters roam the halls, they are aware of two or three hundred students still inside the school but choose to shoot at empty classrooms. Though this behavior might seem odd, Cullen writes, it is “normal” for psychopaths, who tire of their exploits easily. Dylan, Cullen surmises, was simply “indifferent [and] ready to die, fused with Eric and following his lead.”
Cullen allows the narrative to culminate in a play-by-play account of the shooting. His language in these pages is stark and detached, laying out for the readers who have navigated hundreds of pages of information about the backstory behind the massacre, and the fallout that came after, the cold hard facts of the shooting. The “quiet period” the shooters had after their initial attack and their “boredom” are both disturbing aspects of the attack which show both boys’ detachment from their violent actions.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
The shooters return to the cafeteria at 11:44, and attempt to detonate the propane bombs still down there. They fail. The security cameras which captured their sojourn to the commons capture a different body language than what witnesses in the library would later describe—the boys slouch and droop, stripped of their bravado. Eric’s nose is broken. The boys continue to drift through the school surveying the “pathetic” damage. Out of ideas, the shooters return to the library, finding it “different than they’d left it” as the early stages of human decay began. Both shooters advance toward the window, and fired on the paramedics below. A classic attempt at “suicide by cop,” the boys fail at this, too. The shooters then wait for their cars to explode, and when that doesn’t happen, they “called it a day.” They sit down together. Eric puts his shotgun barrel in his mouth, and Dylan points his semiautomatic at his left temple. The boys commit suicide together. The police find the shooters’ bodies “sprawled leisurely, look[ing] serene” three hours later.
As the shooters realized that they had failed—and, perhaps, assumed that their attack would be recognized as a failure—they lost their drive for violence and destruction. After enduring several more small failures they retreated to the library, both ready to die. Their resigned attitude toward suicide in the end is not the blaze of glory they’d imagined going out in—instead it is a pathetic, disturbing act of surrender.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon