Dave Cullen

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“Arlene” Symbol Analysis

“Arlene” Symbol Icon

Eric Harris, the hate-filled teen psychopath who was, for all intents and purposes, the engineer of the attack on Columbine High School, acquired his first shotgun on November 22nd, 1998, just about five months before the shooting. He had been looking forward to having a gun for at least a year, and reverently named the gun “Arlene.” The acquisition of the gun was a major milestone in the planning of the attacks—in Eric’s own words, recovered from the detailed journal he kept in the year prior to the attack, it represented a “point of no return.” After a series of setbacks and failures when it came to bomb-building and the recruitment of other conspirators, the acquisition was a rare triumph for both Eric and his conspirator, Dylan Klebold as they maneuvered their way around the law that prevents minors from purchasing guns. Eric would have turned eighteen about a month before the planned April date of the attack, but felt it was important to acquire the gun early in order “to keep the plan on track.” Using his signature charm and cunning, Eric recruited Dylan’s prom date, Robyn Anderson—who was infatuated with Dylan—to purchase Arlene, and Dylan’s shotgun as well, on the boys’ behalf. The boys had been building pipe bombs and “crickets” made from fireworks, but the shotguns represented the potential to actually take a life—Eric was thrilled and motivated by the power Arlene represented.

Though Eric’s journal is the only record that remains of his thought process in the months leading up to the attack, it is rife with violent hate speech, detailed plans for the attack, and records of his meticulous preparation. The plan was all dream and conjecture until the acquisition of Arlene, which, in all likelihood, symbolized to Eric the impending realization of his greatest dream—the torturous annihilation of his “inferiors.”  In “The Basement Tapes,” a series of video recordings the shooters made in the months leading up to the attack, Eric cradles Arlene in his lap as he drinks whiskey and rants about his hatred of “blacks, Latinos, gays, and women,” lists “kids who’d pissed [him] off [and] every girl who had ever refused his advances,” and plots the deaths of hundreds of his classmates. Eric points Arlene at the camera as he threatens his audience—whoever they may be—with the promise that they will “all die fucking soon,” and brags of his “revolution[ary] declar[ation of] war on the human race.” Arlene symbolizes the final push of confidence the already egomaniacal, psychopathic Eric needed to realize his long-stoked dream of violent retribution against all those he felt had wronged him simply by existing.

“Arlene” Quotes in Columbine

The Columbine quotes below all refer to the symbol of “Arlene”. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Twelve edition of Columbine published in 2010.
Chapter 50 Quotes

“More rage, more rage!” Eric demanded. He motioned with his arms. “Keep building it.”
Dylan hurled another Ericism: “It’s humans I hate.”
Eric raised Arlene, and aimed her at the camera. “You guys will all die, and it will be fucking soon,” he said. “You all need to die. We need to die, too.”
The boys made it clear, repeatedly, that they planned to die in battle. Their legacy would live. “We’re going to kick-start a revolution,” Eric said. “I declared war on the human race and war is what it is.”
He apologized to his mom. “I really am sorry about this, but war’s war.”

Related Characters: Eric Harris (speaker), Dylan Klebold (speaker)
Related Symbols: “Arlene”
Page Number: 327
Explanation and Analysis:
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Columbine PDF

“Arlene” Symbol Timeline in Columbine

The timeline below shows where the symbol “Arlene” appears in Columbine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 46: Guns
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Eric acquires his first shotgun on November 22nd, 1998. He names it “Arlene.” After recruiting their friend Robyn Anderson to purchase the gun for them—she was eighteen years... (full context)