Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cullen believes it is a “safe bet” that Eric and Dylan viewed coverage of the Waco and Oklahoma City incidents on television—Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing, was tried in downtown Denver. Eric, in his journal, would speak of his desire to top McVeigh’s attack.
Cullen cites the influence of the media on Eric and Dylan as they grew up—they were able to bear witness, through their televisions, to acts of angry, large-scale violence that they later cited as inspirational to their own massacre.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Eric and Dylan refer to their plot as “Judgment Day”—Eric has designed seven large bombs after finding recipes on the internet. He has made the bombs using propane tanks, aerosol can detonators, and alarm clocks as timers. Eric plans to place several decoy bombs in a park near his house, a few miles from Columbine, in hopes of diverting police while they use “every free minute [to] raise the potential body count” at the high school.
Eric and Dylan envision their attack as being one of biblical proportions, so much so that they name it Judgment Day. Eric in particular dreams of an insanely high body count—inspired, no doubt, by spectacle murders such as the Oklahoma City bombing.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Religion: Escapism, Evangelism, Opportunism Theme Icon
The “main event” is “scripted” to unfold in three “acts, just like a movie.” For “Act One,” the boys plan to place two large propane bombs in the cafeteria at the beginning of “A” lunch. The bombs have been loaded with nails to maximize shrapnel and stuffed into duffel bags, which will conceal them while the boys retreat out of the cafeteria and take cover. After “wip[ing] out most of the lunch crowd,” the boys plan to prepare for “Act Two,” when they will pick off anyone who survives the bombing with their firearms—a semiautomatic handgun and a shotgun for Dylan, and a carbine rifle and second shotgun for Eric. The two also plan to load up on smaller pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, knives, and other assorted ordnance. For “Act Three,” the boys expect to already be dead—bombs concealed in each of their cars will blow just as police, press, and paramedics arrive on the scene, and even more lives will be taken.
The fact that Eric and Dylan scripted their attack like a film lent credence to the popular opinion that violent media had been an inspiration to them. The desire to create a spectacle that flowed in an intuitive way and had a clear structure with definitive characteristics of each phase wasn’t tied to any one film, show, or video game, but it did reflect the boys’ theatrical sensibilities and desire for constructed violence that would inspire the awe and “respect” that their favorite films did.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Eric and Dylan have been planning their attack for months, and considering it for well over a year. Both boys know their attack will “puzzle the public,” and they plan to leave behind detailed journals outlining every step of the logistics behind the massacre, as well as websites and a series of incendiary, disturbing videos that will come to be known as the “Basement Tapes.”
The boys are very concerned with their legacy. They want to use the attacks to make a visible and lasting impact, and want for their names to become synonymous with large-scale violence. They are considering their audience at every turn while planning the attack.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
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Eric planned the massacre for the Monday after prom, but failed to acquire enough ammo over the weekend. He calls upon Mark Manes, a drug dealer who also runs guns and ammo, and the man from whom Eric purchased Dylan’s semiautomatic. Monday evening, after an uneventful day for both Eric and Dylan, Manes acquires ammo on Eric’s behalf. Eric is eighteen years old, but Cullen notes that the fact that he could legally purchase his own ammunition seems either to have escaped him or to have been something he did not want to do. Eric picks up the ammo from Manes’ house, and Manes asks Eric if he is planning on going hunting later that evening. “Maybe tomorrow” is Eric’s reply.
This shift in planning is uncharacteristic of the meticulous Eric. Cullen does not claim to know what the last-minute change might have signified. Eric’s callous response to Manes’ question demonstrates a collected and determined state of mind, as well as a deep, unrelenting sadism and desire to “hunt” his classmates down.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon