An Abundance of Katherines

by

John Green

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Anagrams Symbol Icon

Colin, who is very good with language, is an expert at making anagrams. He can take almost any word or phrase, rearrange the letters, and come up with other words or phrases that use all the same letters. This talent gives him an edge at Scrabble the first time he plays it, with Hollis, Lindsey, and Hassan. It is also a good conversation starter; he even uses his anagramming skills to win over Katherine XIX. However, Colin interprets his skill with anagrams as a sign that he is never going to be a true genius. Making anagrams is a product of his childhood as a prodigy who could learn, memorize, and reproduce information rapidly. He feels that when he makes an anagram, he is just spitting back letters that were already there, in the same way that, in his mind, each Katherine he dates is a kind of copy of the same nine letters. In short, his skill with anagrams is a sign that he never does anything new or original. He can no longer be a child prodigy because his childhood is ending, and in order to become an adult genius, he would have to do or create something new and original. Every time he anagrams, he believes, he fails to create something new.

At the end of the novel, however, it is precisely Colin’s anagramming that allows him to realize that it is really Lindsey’s great-grandfather, Dr. Fred N. Dinzanfar, who is buried in the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s grave in Gutshot. Colin loses his glasses during the climactic scene of the novel, when TOC is beating him up. The letters on the obelisk that marks the Archduke’s grave dance before his eyes, and he realizes that they can be mixed up to form the name of Dr. Dinzanfar. This realization, which he brings up with Lindsey later on, leads Colin to several realizations. First, he realizes that historical events can be manipulated by people who want to tell alternative stories. Second, he realizes that Hollis has commercialized the alternative story about the Archduke being buried in Gutshot in order to bring in tourist revenue to avoid firing textile factory workers. By doing so, she is helping her community and keeping Gutshot’s economy alive. Finally, Colin realizes that Hollis’s anagrammatic storytelling about the Archduke has brought Colin himself to Gutshot, which has led to the new chapter of his life in which he is dating Lindsey and no longer hung up on Katherines. In this way, an anagram has been a creative force. In fact, Colin realizes that he can rearrange the pieces of his life however he wants, to become whoever he wants to be.

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Anagrams Symbol Timeline in An Abundance of Katherines

The timeline below shows where the symbol Anagrams appears in An Abundance of Katherines. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...“too comfortable for his state of mind” and moves to the floor. There, he makes anagrams of “yrs forever,” coming up with “sorry fever.” He dwells on this phrase and how... (full context)
Chapter 3
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
...but can never seem to hear enough. In this psychologist’s office, Colin made his first anagram while he overheard the psychologist telling his mother that his quick information processing should be... (full context)
Chapter 4
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Colin goes to the bathroom and anagrams a phrase he sees scratched into the door. Rather than share with Hassan when he... (full context)
Chapter 5
Storytelling Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Colin gets distracted making anagrams, which leads him to trip, fall, and hit his head on a rock. Lindsey asks... (full context)
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...rather than an actual girlfriend. She held him while he cried. After she left, he anagrammed “mymissingpiece” and tried to fall asleep. (full context)
Chapter 8
Storytelling Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...intermingling of the rooster’s crows and Hassan’s morning prayers, thinking about Katherine XIX, and making anagrams of “rooster.” (full context)
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 9
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...find that Hassan has left, and Lindsey is looking over his shoulder. She mentions his anagramming talent and grabs his arm for a moment. Colin notices her nail polish. She remarks... (full context)
Chapter 15
Storytelling Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...is posing a problem for the Theorem. He only knew her for twelve days. He anagrams her name, “Katherine Mutsenberger,” and finds the phrase, “remark eighteen, snub rest.” It does not... (full context)
Chapter 19
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...Janet’s” as a hint from Lindsey to him. He hikes up to her secret hideout, anagramming along the way. He does indeed find Lindsey in the cave, and she confirms that... (full context)