The Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a not particularly important or well-liked Autro-Hungarian aristocrat while he was alive, but his assassination in 1914 was used as justification by his relatives to start the conflict that would ultimately become World War I. Colin identifies with the Archduke because he was shot in the gut, and the wound must have felt the physical version of the emotional hole Colin locates in his own gut. It seems that Colin also finds significance in the figure of the Archduke because he died young, and was not particularly impressive to anyone while he was alive. Colin worries about the legacy he will leave, and he worries (although not explicitly) that if he is to achieve any kind of legacy, it might only be by dying young like the Archduke.
The town of Gutshot, Tennessee boasts that it holds the grave of the Archduke, and it is this grave that initially inspires Colin to stop in Gutshot while on his road trip with Hassan. The grave has an obelisk, which John Green himself has acknowledged appears to be a phallic symbol, representing that the Archduke’s identity as a man continues in his death. When Colin has been kicked in his own groin near the end of the novel, he anagrams the letters on the obelisk and realizes that it is not the Archduke at all who is buried there, but rather Lindsey’s great grandfather, whose name is an anagram of Franz Ferdinand. Dr. Dinzanfar wanted his grave to be marked as that of the Archduke, and Hollis has recently decided to capitalize on tourists who want to see the grave. In this way, the story of the Archduke is distorted even further beyond the actual facts of his life. The Archduke thus represents for Colin not only the arbitrariness of death but also, by the end of the novel, the potential power of storytelling over historical events.
The Archduke Franz Ferdinand Quotes in An Abundance of Katherines
Shit, Colin made a funny. This place is like magic for you. Shame about how we’re gonna die here, though. I mean, seriously. An Arab and a half-Jew enter a store in Tennessee. It’s the beginning of a joke, and the punchline is “sodomy.”
He thought of Chicago, where you can go days without ever once stepping on a single patch of actual earth. That well-paved world appealed to him, and he missed it as his feet fell on uneven clumps of hardened dirt that threatened to twist his ankles.