Murderers as Victims: Reassigning Guilt in Al Gore’s “Columbine Memorial Address”

  • Ashley K. Allen University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill


Al Gore’s “Columbine Memorial Address” is a eulogy that memorializes the shooting deaths of thirteen people by two Columbine High School seniors and attempts to discern why this tragedy happened. This essay shows how Gore frames the tragedy by defining components of Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic pentad to reassign guilt from Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to adults in society. The perpetrator-as-victim narrative has been used historically to absolve perpetrators of guilt, including in the Tuskegee Syphilis reports, the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne, and the death of Karen Wood. This essay’s analysis involves the study of a single rhetorical act that worked to absolve a third party within the framework of a eulogy. Studying the perpetrator-as-victim narrative within Gore’s speech is important because Columbine plays a large and continuing role in the national discourse on mass shootings.

Author Biography

Ashley K. Allen, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Ashley K. Allen will graduate from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in May 2014 with a BA in Communication Studies, a second major in Psychology, and a minor in Linguistics. She enjoys working with children and adults with disabilities and plans on attending graduate school for speech-language pathology in the fall of 2014.

How to Cite
Allen, A. K. (2015). Murderers as Victims: Reassigning Guilt in Al Gore’s “Columbine Memorial Address”. Young Scholars in Writing, 11, 55-64. Retrieved from