As a child, Colin read a story about how Archimedes took a bath one day and discovered that volume could be measured by water displacement. When an object is placed in a body of water, the water displaces, meaning that its level rises in order to make room for the volume of the object that is now immersed in it. The volume of water that is displaced, Archimedes realized, is equal to the volume of the immersed object. According to the story, Archimedes jumped out of his bathtub and ran out naked on the street, crying “Eureka!”, which is ancient Greek for “I’ve got it!” Ever since reading this story, Colin has been determined to have a “Eureka” moment of his own, when he makes a great and enduring discovery. His mother promises that he will have one, but by the time the novel starts, Colin is not so sure.
Colin does have two Eureka moments in the novel. The first is when he first arrives in Gutshot. He trips on the way to the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s grave and hits his head on a rock. When he comes to and does not have his glasses, he realizes that his problem in relationships, like his problem with his eyes, is nearsightedness: he is always being dumped because he is bad at looking far ahead of himself not only in space, but also in time. Colin then determines to write a Theorem to predict the course of any relationship based on his past relationship experience. This, he feels, is a “Eureka” moment, because he is sure he has discovered a way to avoid future heartbreak.
Over the course of the novel, however, Colin learns that making a discovery takes more hard work than just a sudden stroke of inspiration and that, quite simply, his big discovery might be wrong. He struggles to make the Theorem work for all the Katherines, but even once he does, it turns out not to work for his relationship with Lindsey. In the epilogue, Colin finally has his second Eureka moment, which is a revision of his first. Now, as he watches Lindsey and Hassan play poker, he realizes that just as in poker, past events can be modeled mathematically, but it is impossible to predict future hands. He realizes that he does not know what will happen in the future with regard to his romantic life, his legacy, or anything else. What he can do is create new narratives and new events that will eventually make the story of his life. In this way, Colin realizes that discovery is a process that usually does not happen instantaneously. Rather, he should think of his life as one long “Eureka” that will eventually, through revision, piece together into any number of discoveries about how the world works.
“Eureka” Moments Quotes in An Abundance of Katherines
Prodigies can very quickly learn what other people have already figured out; geniuses discover that which no one has ever previously discovered. Prodigies learn; geniuses do. The vast majority of child prodigies don’t become adult geniuses. Colin was almost certain that he was among that unfortunate majority.
He could just never see anything coming, and as he lay on the solid, uneven ground with Hassan pressing too hard on his forehead, Colin Singleton’s distance from his glasses made him realize the problem: myopia. He was nearsighted. The future lay before him, inevitable but invisible.
And the moral of the story is that you don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened. And the second moral of the story, if a story can have multiple morals, is that Dumpers are not inherently worse than Dumpees—breaking up isn’t something that gets done to you; it’s something that happens with you.