An Abundance of Katherines

by

John Green

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An Abundance of Katherines: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the morning, Colin realizes that his life in Chicago has sheltered him from the understanding that the rooster crowing at dawn is more than a literary and cinematic trope. This morning, a rooster in fact begins crowing well before dawn. Colin feels tired but good until he remembers his breakup and finds that he has no missed calls on his cell phone. Colin spends the next couple hours in bed, listening to the intermingling of the rooster’s crows and Hassan’s morning prayers, thinking about Katherine XIX, and making anagrams of “rooster.”
Following on Colin’s recollection of his first relationship as deterministic of his entire future, Colin realizes that he might have simplistic assumptions about tropes in literature. This realization seems to be a comfort to Colin until he falls back into his pattern of dwelling on the unattainable Katherine XIX and feeling powerless to reach out to her.
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Related Quotes
Around 7:00 a.m., Colin goes into the bathroom to brush his teeth. Hassan is there taking a shower, and they discuss how the Wells family is strange. Hassan tells Colin that Hollis has a billion-dollar house but is asleep on the couch watching the Home Shopping Network. He doesn’t mind, though, because Hollis is impressed by both him and Colin, and Hassan will be making enough money this summer to survive unemployed for years. Colin makes a comment about Hassan’s lack of ambition, and Hassan tells him to lay off him about college. They decide that their code word for when one of them has gone too far teasing the other will be “Dingleberries.”
Being in unfamiliar territory gives Colin and Hassan something to bond over. Colin’s insistence upon his eternal loneliness is thus set off against his deepening friendship with Hassan, which Colin doesn’t yet recognize as fulfilling. Hassan again asserts his ability to be happy with much less than Colin. The fact that college is a sensitive subject suggests that Hassan might in fact want more than he professes to want, but the contrast between his contented attitude and Colin’s angst gives rise to the idea that there is a happy medium between Colin’s extreme ambition and Hassan’s easy contentment.
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Colin begins anagramming “dingleberries,” and Hassan says maybe that’s why Katherine XIX dumped him. Colin responds, “Dingleberries.” Hassan changes the subject to breakfast. On the way down the stairs, Colin wonders why Hollis really wanted to hire them. Hassan jokes that he has a special bond with Hollis because they are both fat. Colin tries to insist that Hassan is simply “pudgy,” and Hassan brings Colin’s attention to his “man-tits.” Colin assents that he is at least an A-cup, and Hassan smiles “with great satisfaction.”
Whereas Colin remains incredibly sensitive about his sources of self-consciousness, Hassan deals with his body image issues by making jokes. For Hassan, it is easier to accept the truth of his weight and make light of it than try to kid himself into thinking his body is closer to the cultural ideal. Colin is able to laugh with his friend, which helps Hassan find even more humor in his own joke. Colin, however, is not yet ready to joke about his own personal shortcomings.
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Hassan and Lindsey watch The Today Show and Colin reads from a Lord Byron anthology he brought with him while Hollis gets ready. Lindsey asks him what he is reading. He holds it up, and she reads “Don Juan” off the cover. He corrects her pronunciation—it’s pronounced “Don Jew-un” rather than “Don Wan.” Hassan says this is not interesting, but Lindsey is more aggravated that uninterested.
The name Don Juan has become synonymous with womanizing, but Lord Byron’s long poem of that title is also a comedy. In a sense, Colin is reading about himself, but he either fails to recognize himself in the main character, or he fails to understand how he and Don Juan could be portrayed as comical figures.
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Hollis comes downstairs and explains that the project the two boys will be helping with is an oral history of Gutshot, “for future generations.” There have been issues with gossip about the interviews, so Colin and Hassan, who are outsiders, and Lindsey, who everyone trusts, will be conducting the interviews from now on. Hollis wants six hours of “real history” on tape each day. When she says she is doing this project for her grandkids, not a gossip fest, Lindsey says, “Bullshit.” Hollis tells her to put a quarter in the swear jar. Lindsey swears three more times because she only has a dollar bill. As Hollis sends the three teenagers out the door, she says that she will have The Other Colin, “Lindsey’s [sigh] boyfriend” open the store because he hasn’t been showing up to work half the time lately.
The fact that Hollis wants “real history” begs the question of what real history is, and how it differs from a story that would be spread as gossip. Lindsey is frustrated that Hollis seems to be hinting about the future, when Lindsey might have kids. Lindsey and Hollis, despite their banter, seem to have a loving relationship in which both Lindsey’s youthful focus on the present and Hollis’s mature focus on the future play an important role. Hollis may not be happy that Lindsey is dating TOC, but she nonetheless accepts that this is the case. This parent-child relationship serves as an example of the relationship Colin might have with his parents were he to assert more of his own desires in response to their desires for him.
Themes
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Lindsey, frustrated with Hollis’s tone with regard to her boyfriend, asks Hassan in the Hearse to drop her off at the store so she can see TOC. Hassan insists that she is dating TOC because his friend, who can say “unique” in nine languages, is “clearly the Primary Colin.” Colin feels affection toward Hassan and feels like some medicine has momentarily been applied to the hole in his gut. Lindsey concedes to being dropped off at the store after they do their work for the day.
Lindsey’s insistence that she is going to see TOC demonstrates that although Colin feels his decision to take a road trip with Hassan has been a great rebellion, it is really an act that brings him into closer relationship with his peers. Colin also finally begins to recognize that friendship might help him feel fulfilled in lieu of romance.
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Lindsey leads them to the house of a man named Starnes, who greets them at the door and appears to be missing his lower jaw. In response to Colin’s staring, he explains that he lost the jaw to cancer. The smell of the house reminds Colin of Katherine XIX’s basement, and he loses himself in the feeling of his aching gut.
Despite Colin’s newfound realization about friendship, he is nonetheless still sad about his breakup and falls back into his pattern of dwelling on Katherine XIX. This scene, in which Colin also fails to conceal his shock when he sees Starnes’s face, demonstrates that Colin’s youthful and limited outlook on life will take some more sustained work to dismantle.
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In a section subtitled, “The Beginning (of the End),” Colin recalls how Katherine XIX became the XIX. He had been wanting to kiss her for a while but was afraid of rejection, which according to him, boys face at a higher rate than girls. They went to Café Sel Marie for their third date in a row even though Colin only liked the idea of coffee. They went back to Katherine’s basement to watch The Royal Tanenbaums, a movie about a family of prodigies. Colin liked the movie but distinguished himself from the characters by emphasizing that he had not been born good at everything but rather had worked hard to be a prodigy. He showed off his anagramming skills for Katherine. She wanted to know what else he was good at. He took his opening to show her how good he was at kissing.
Colin, who does not even like coffee, recreated the same coffee date three times with Katherine XIX in the hope that eventually she would kiss him. This hope demonstrates that Colin’s approach to romance is to play out a specific narrative until it works out in his favor, and also that he feels largely helpless to initiate romance. Colin’s courage to finally kiss Katherine XIX comes only after she listens to him characterize himself as a child prodigy and expresses admiration for his anagramming skills. The feeling of intellectual superiority thus gives him the feeling of romantic courage.
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