An Abundance of Katherines

by

John Green

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The Theorem Symbol Icon

One of the reasons Katherine XIX dumps Colin the night after their high school graduation is that he is preoccupied with the question of how to turn from a child prodigy into an adult genius. He is convinced that he needs to have a “Eureka” moment, making a new discovery to prove that he is as special as he has always been told. He believes that if he does not become a genius, he will not matter to the world. When Katherine breaks up with him, it only reinforces his feeling that he does not matter to anyone. His road trip with Hassan is intended to help Colin get over the depressive state he enters as a result, so Colin is extra hopeful that he will have a “Eureka” moment while on the trip. Indeed, he thinks he has one when he has the idea to create a Theorem, based on his past relationships, to predict the course of any relationship based on how likely each party is to be a “Dumper” or “Dumpee.” Colin works tirelessly on the Theorem throughout the novel, but struggles to make it work for every Katherine. Lindsey then helps him see that he needs it to account for a huge variety of variables that factor into any romantic relationship. Still, he cannot get it quite right. In particular, the Theorem seems to indicate that he broke up with Katherine III, which he knows to be false. Finally, at Hassan’s urging, Colin calls Katherine III and discovers that he has revised his own memory: he did break up with her after all, and the Theorem has been correct the whole time. However, as Colin discovers when his relationship with Lindsey lasts longer than the Theorem predicts, it is not possible to model the course future relationships will take—only past relationships can be accounted for by the Theorem. The Theorem symbolizes Colin’s determination to find meaning in his life’s events; eventually, what it teaches him is that he has to abandon his obsession with mathematical precision, and instead accept randomness and uncertainly, to allow meaningful events to take place.

The Theorem Quotes in An Abundance of Katherines

The An Abundance of Katherines quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Theorem. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Speak edition of An Abundance of Katherines published in 2012.
Chapter 5 Quotes

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.

Related Symbols: “Eureka” Moments, The Theorem
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

[Y]ou can see into the future if you have a basic understanding of how people are likely to act.

Related Characters: Colin Singleton (speaker), Hassan Harbish, Lindsey Lee Wells
Related Symbols: The Theorem
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

The missing piece in his stomach hurt so much – and eventually he stopped thinking about the Theorem and wondered only how something that isn’t there can hurt you.

Related Characters: Colin Singleton, Hassan Harbish
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

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.

Related Symbols: “Eureka” Moments, The Theorem
Page Number: 207-8
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Theorem Symbol Timeline in An Abundance of Katherines

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Theorem appears in An Abundance of Katherines. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
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Romantic Love Theme Icon
Hassan grabs Colin’s notebook, and Colin explains that he is trying to write a Theorem to predict relationship outcomes. Hassan says the theorem idea is “interesting” which is the highest... (full context)
Chapter 7
Romantic Love Theme Icon
Colin hopes to work on the Theorem in the car. Hassan says he needs some Gatorade before he can get back on... (full context)
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...where a president might sign a bill into law.” Colin begins writing notes about the Theorem and devises a bell curve to represent the distribution of people along the scale from... (full context)
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
...about his worry that the job will take up his time for working on the Theorem. Hassan asks in English if they can make sure Colin has time to doodle. Colin... (full context)
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
...them he is staying with the Wellses. He then stays up late working on the Theorem at the empty-drawered desk in the room he has taken as his bedroom. Colin reflects... (full context)
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Romantic Love Theme Icon
Just as Colin is wondering whether he lacks the math skills for the Theorem, Lindsey comes in wearing pajamas. She bites her thumb nervously, which Colin tells her he... (full context)
Chapter 9
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
...retype all of The Catcher in the Rye. He feels more than ever that the Theorem is his only hope for originality. (full context)
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...walks into the room, and Hassan and Lindsey change the subject. Colin works on the Theorem while they talk. At midnight, Colin looks up to find that Hassan has left, and... (full context)
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Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
...Lindsey’s and notices the spot where she has bitten her thumb. He insists that his Theorem will have a beginning, middle, and end. Lindsey says there is no romance in geometry,... (full context)
Chapter 10
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
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Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
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...but he mostly lets Hassan ask the questions so that he can focus on the Theorem. Eventually, he dwells only on the hole in his gut and how much it hurts. (full context)
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Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
In the evening, Colin works on the Theorem but becomes increasingly frustrated as he comes to the conclusion that although he could conceive... (full context)
Chapter 12
Achievement and Mortality Theme Icon
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
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...She says that the exchange was an inside joke. She turns the conversation to his Theorem and tells Colin she wants to contribute to it so that she might “matter a... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...Lindsey, Katrina, TOC, JATT, and SOCT on Sunday and Monday while Colin works on the Theorem, which he still can’t get right for Katherine III or Katherine XIX. Hassan comes home... (full context)
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Once Hassan goes to bed, Colin continues working on the Theorem through his tears. He thinks of a best friend, a Katherine, and a Theorem as... (full context)
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Before dinner, Colin continues working on the Theorem. He realizes that his problem with the Katherine XIX graph is that he has been... (full context)
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...they are going out to dinner. Lindsey first says she wants to know how the Theorem works if you’re gay, and Colin insists that it doesn’t matter who the individuals represented... (full context)
Chapter 14
Storytelling Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...he says in the moment, he kind of did. Hassan encourages him to finish the Theorem so he can predict how it would go. (full context)
Chapter 15
Self-Actualization Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
Romantic Love Theme Icon
...return to the way they were. Lindsey has a boyfriend, and Colin works on the Theorem. To shake things up a little, Hassan has a girlfriend, and everyone is preparing for... (full context)
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Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
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...XIX and decides against calling her again. He wants to wait until he completes the Theorem. He begins thinking about Katherine III and why on earth she is posing a problem... (full context)
Chapter 17
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That night, Colin finishes the Theorem and gets an accurate graph for his true relationship with Katherine III. He shows the... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Plans, Change, and Growth Theme Icon
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...Lindsey says that maybe no girl will. Colin agrees and says that neither will the Theorem. Life, he has decided, might be about more than achieving arbitrary markers. (full context)
Epilogue
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...because she is visiting Mabel that morning. Colin confides in Hassan that according to the Theorem, Lindsey is going to dump him in four days. (full context)
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The day the Theorem indicates as the day Lindsey will break up with Colin, he wakes up to a... (full context)
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The next day, Colin works on the Theorem some more while Hassan and Lindsey play poker. Suddenly, he realizes that while it is... (full context)