Colin Singleton, who has dated nineteen girls named Katherine, appears to be highly experienced at romance. However, even he cannot deny that he must have some sort of complex if every one of his girlfriends has had the same name. Although the novel is called An Abundance of Katherines, it is really about one of the first times in Colin’s life since the age of eight that he has not had any Katherines in his life. This time to be a “Singleton” allows him to work through the reasons why he has dated such a long string of Katherines. Colin recalls the story of each Katherine and comes to the realization that he has much more to learn about dating. However, it is not necessarily by dating an endless string of women that he will learn these lessons, and a continuation of his past dating patterns will certainly not help him live up to the moniker of “special” that his mother has given him. He needs to learn how to pursue projects and relationships that are important to him. A romantic relationship will only help him be a happy, well-rounded person if that individual relationship truly matters to him. Then, however the relationship ends, it will exist as a significant event in Colin’s life.
Hassan often contrasts his lack of romantic experience with Colin’s surplus of experience. However, as Colin reveals more and more about his various relationships, it becomes apparent that many of his relationships have been extremely short-lived and juvenile. It seems almost ridiculous that he has blown them so out of proportion as to call each girl his girlfriend, much less lament that their rejections constitute a deep undesirability on his part. Hassan, whose first kiss, relationship, and breakup happen during his three-week stay in Gutshot, demonstrates much more clear-headedness when it comes to romance. When Lindsey takes her shirt off to bandage Colin’s head after he hits it on a rock on his first day in Gutshot, he thinks back to all the Katherines whose bras he has seen. He recalls four, or seven if the count includes straps. The fact that Colin has dated nineteen girls but only seen four of their bras (and even feels compelled to count bra straps in an effort to up his tally) suggests that he has not been a great deal more sexually active than any 17-year-old. He also reveals that he counts as a relationship an interaction in which a Katherine held his hand and called him a genius. He thinks of himself as special at least insofar as he has had an active dating life, but he seems to have an extremely loose definition of “dating” that allows him to count nearly any interaction with a girl named Katherine as one of his relationships. In fact, Colin does not seem all that much more experience than Hassan. Unlike Hassan, who has no problem admitting publicly that his first kiss happens in Gutshot during a game of spin-the-bottle, Colin thinks of Katherine I as the first girl he kissed but later reveals that he did not kiss anyone until Katherine V. Colin thus revises history to give himself his first kiss at a younger age than it actually occurred. He appears preoccupied with not only making Katherine I (who also happens to be Katherine XIX) a central figure in his life, but also with making himself seem uniquely experienced with romance and sex. Although Hassan has his first kiss at a later age than Colin and ultimately decides that he is not ready to date, he is more in touch with reality and his emotions surrounding romance and sex than Colin is.
Colin is obsessed with the idea of having a girlfriend but is not especially invested in any of his girlfriends themselves. He realizes across the course of the novel that he has been thinking of having a girlfriend as one of the arbitrary “markers” of success that he feels he has to achieve to be special. By the end of the novel, he comes to the conclusion that simply having a girlfriend will not make him happy. Happiness, rather, is to be achieved by working on things that truly matter to him – intellectual and romantic projects alike. Katherine XIX breaks up with Colin just before the novel starts. In the flashback to their breakup scene, she tells Colin that he needs a robot that says “I love you” instead of an actual girlfriend. It seems that Colin has been trying all his life to find a stand-in for Katherine I by dating random girls named Katherine, but now that he has the real thing again (because Katherine XIX is Katherine I, many years older), it seems that he from her perspective, he still treats her as a stand-in for something he does not have. Katherine is not the “missing piece” that will make Colin a complete person, but Colin must travel to Gutshot and fall out of infatuation with her before he can realize that he wants something else out of life. Colin frequently cites “mattering” as his ultimate goal in life. He wants to be important, and he laments the fact that he does not matter enough to any of the Katherines for them to date him. As Colin grows closer with Lindsey during his stay in Gutshot, he recognizes that she, like him, is dating someone for the sake of making a point rather than because she actually loves him. TOC, Lindsey’s boyfriend, cheats on her. Both newly dumped, Colin and Lindsey begin dating because they share a connection and are truly interested in each other for who they are. Nonetheless, Colin and Lindsey discuss how no one person can make either of them important or special. Lindsey intends to reconnect with the elderly people in Gutshot because she realizes that her relationships with them mean more to her than maintaining her popularity. Colin, meanwhile, is not sure what he intends to do next, but he does resolve to stop trying to determine his future romantic actions by predicting how relationships will turn out based on his past relationship experience.
Colin and Lindsey end the novel driving off into the sunset together, Hassan in the back seat. There is no sense that they will necessarily remain together permanently. In fact, as Colin often insists, relationships always end in breakup, divorce, or death. Still, they have both matured enough to realize that they should date who they sincerely want to date, no matter how it will turn out. Hassan’s presence in the backseat signifies that Colin is not losing himself entirely to this new romance, as he has done previously. He is carrying his life with him so that, should he break up with Lindsey eventually, the relationship will be a piece of his life story that he can fit into the remaining aspects of who he is as a complete person.
Romantic Love ThemeTracker
Romantic Love Quotes in An Abundance of Katherines
Crying adds something: crying is you, plus tears. But the feeling Colin had was some horrible opposite of crying. It was you, minus something.
Driving was a kind of thinking, the only kind he could then tolerate. But still the thought lurked out there, just beyond the reach of his headlights: he’d been dumped. By a girl named Katherine. For the nineteenth time.
You’re a very special person. Colin would hear this a lot, and yet – somehow – he could never hear it enough.
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.
She tried to get out as quickly and painlessly as possible, but after she begged curfew, he began to cry. She held his head against her collarbone. And even though he felt pitiful and ridiculous, he didn’t want it to end, because he knew the absence of her would hurt more than any breakup ever could.
[Y]ou can see into the future if you have a basic understanding of how people are likely to act.
[I]t is important to know things because it makes you special and you can read books that normal people cannot read, such as Ovid’s Metamorphosis, which is in Latin.
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.
As the staggered lines rushed past him, he thought about the space between what we remember and what happened, the space between what we predict and what will happen. And in that space, Colin thought, there was room enough to reinvent himself – room enough to make himself into something other than a prodigy, to remake his story better and different – room enough to be reborn again and again….There was room enough to be anyone – anyone except whom he’d already been, for if Colin had learned one thing from Gutshot, it’s that you can’t stop the future from coming. And for the first time in his life, he smiled thinking about the always-coming infinite future stretching out before him.