The more Adam hated himself, the more he hated everyone else: killing others and suicide were both crucial

Adam Lanza … committed three distinct atrocities: he killed his mother; he killed himself; he killed children and adults he’d never met before. Two of these acts are explicable; the third, incomprehensible. There are many crimes from which most people desist because we know right from wrong and are careful of the law. Most people would like to have things that belong to others; many people have felt murderous rage. But the reason that almost no one shoots twenty random children isn’t self-restraint; it’s that there is no level at which the idea is attractive. Since 2006, according to a USA Today study, there have been two hundred and thirty-two mass killings—meaning, more than four deaths apiece, not including the killer—in the United States. But fewer than fifteen per cent involved random, unknown victims.


The problem with generalities about mass murderers is that the sample size is tiny, and most die before they can be examined. Almost half of all mass murderers commit suicide in the act, and many others are killed by police. … But, for Adam, killing others and suicide were both crucial. The link seems clear: the more Adam hated himself, the more he hated everyone else. Émile Durkheim, the great scholar of suicide, wrote that it can be “not an act of despair, but of abnegation.” Adam abnegated humanity with his act.

Andrew Solomon, “The Reckoning”, The New Yorker (17 March 2014), 44.