the miscellany chronicle

bit of this, bit of that

4.17.2007

text.

Cho Seung-Hui's Plays

Someone who was in a writing workshop with the gunman said:

When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of. Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn't pressure him to give closing comments.


I find it interesting that in a culture which often devalues the written word-- and here, at a Tech school, where math and science are so important-- it turns out that this man's writings are turning out to be the most reliable source of insight into his psyche, and even indicative of his future behavior.

'Creative Writing Workshops' don't necessarily spring to mind when the world is trying to understand his reasons for doing this-- everyone wants to know about the girl he killed first, how he knew her, if there had been other warning signs to people who knew him.

But the picture being painted as more people speak up is that almost no one knew him-- which means that these short one act plays are going to stand in as his friends and family, at least for now.

And the rage in them is eloquent, even if the writing is not.

The idea that all the people in his writing workshop recognized and feared that rage-- long before the rest of the country would experience the same emotion-- is pretty stunning. There is an artistic conceit that writers can create their works out of nothing but imagination-- yet in my experience, that is rarely true. A classmate with serious sexual dysfunction wrote poems full of corresponding imagery. Another classmate in a fiction workshop wrote borderline terrifying stories about the sexual degradation of female characters, which in turn made me uneasy in my interactions with him. The correlation between writers and their writings has proven to be nearly unavoidable, more than ever this week.

I don't know that the English Department could have done anything to prevent it-- and I think it's an unfair burden to lay at their door. But he buried his early warning signs in that text, and the people who read it understood exactly what it meant, even if they didn't find out how right they were until the killings began.

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