Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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

Psychopath Term Analysis

Cullen notes that “in popular usage, any crazy killer is called a psychopath.” The term, however, is far more nuanced—it references a very specific mental condition marked by lack of empathy and “coldhearted manipulat[ion.]” Psychopathy is not synonymous with psychosis—psychosis includes diagnoses such as paranoia and schizophrenia, disorders which disorient and delude the sufferer. Psychopaths, on the other hand, are marked by a cold rationality, a gift for calculating behavior, and a charming, callous, cunning, egocentric personality. Psychopaths have a “ruthless disregard” for others and an “astonishing gift for deception [and] for disguising” their cold, detached disregard. This second trait is essential to masking the first in order to deceive their potential victims of emotional of physical violence. Experts now believe that Eric Harris was not just a “budding” psychopath, but a full-blown, textbook case of the disorder. Psychopathic brains function differently than healthy brains—though Eric Harris’s method of suicide left no brain for medical personnel or investigators to scan, experts believe that Harris’s brain scan would have revealed physical evidence of a psychopathic brain.
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Psychopath Term Timeline in Columbine

The timeline below shows where the term Psychopath appears in Columbine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 33: Good-Bye
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...sees no evidence of psychosis—disorientation or delusion—in Dylan’s journal entries, but considers the possibility of psychopathy. Psychopaths act “charming and likable,” but are in reality “coldhearted manipulators” who, when “amuse[d]” by... (full context)
Chapter 39: The Book of God
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...journal in the present day, comes to an important conclusion: he is dealing with a psychopath. (full context)
Chapter 40: Psychopath
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...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... (full context)
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Psychopathic brains, Cullen writes, are distinguished by two characteristics: a ruthless disregard for others and, secondly,... (full context)
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Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
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Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
...dyad of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold certainly was. Eric was the ringleader and sadistic psychopath, and Dylan was an angry, erratic depressive. (full context)
Chapter 41: The Parents Group
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Though Fuselier is confident in his diagnosis of Eric as a psychopath, he knows there will controversy and “resistance” over diagnosing such a young man. Three months... (full context)
Chapter 44: Bombs Are Hard
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...possible” and not get “sidetracked by feelings of sympathy [or] mercy.” Though Eric was a psychopath and unable to feel empathy, Cullen writes, he did comprehend the pain he would cause... (full context)
Chapter 48: An Emotion of God  
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...to be no help with any of it.” Eric, showing the textbook recklessness of a psychopath, plans to walk the bombs right into the school, hiding them in duffel bags. (full context)
Chapter 49: Ready To Be Done
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Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
...over his arrest. The FBI releases a list of warning signs “including symptoms of both psychopathy and depression,” but cautions that “most kids matching the criteria need help, not incarceration.” (full context)
Afterword: Forgiveness
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...with Eric Harris’s parents. Wayne and Kathy Harris “accepted” that their son had been a psychopath, and had fooled them completely. Linda finds the Harrises “sincere,” and at the end of... (full context)