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
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.
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.
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.