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