Themes

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 707

An Abundance of Katherines deals with a number of themes prevalent in young adult literature: the difficulties involved in growing up, the painfulness of change, and the evolution of self-identity.

The transition from late adolescence to young adulthood proves to be confusing for Colin, Hassan, and Lindsey. Even though Hassan...

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An Abundance of Katherines deals with a number of themes prevalent in young adult literature: the difficulties involved in growing up, the painfulness of change, and the evolution of self-identity.

The transition from late adolescence to young adulthood proves to be confusing for Colin, Hassan, and Lindsey. Even though Hassan and Lindsey think they are just helping Colin through his Katherine problems, they all come to realize that they need to make a change in order to make their lives what they want them to be. All three can either stay on the “planned” path—another Katherine, another episode of Judge Judy, a life in Gutshot—or deviate from what is normal and find something new.

Colin thinks a lot about what the future will bring. He quotes various pieces of information that show he may not grow up to be an adult genius. Having been considered a special child his entire life, Colin cannot accept that he would no longer be special. His identity of “child prodigy, special, intelligent, social outcast” has been set in concrete so long, how can Colin define himself if those things are no longer true? Colin is a perpetual "Dumpee," a child prodigy, and a lover of Katherines. If he turns out to be a "Dumper," a regular person with regular intelligence, and a lover of a Lindsey, is he still Colin? Is he still special?

As in many young adult books, the three main characters struggle with the idea of identity: Lindsey changes identities to suit those whom she is around; who is she, really, then? Hassan is funny, lazy, and a lover of Judge Judy. Is that who he really wants to be?

In order to face these questions, the main characters need to face the idea of change. Colin embraces the idea that maybe he will grow up to be a regular person—and that is okay. Dating Katherines made him special and an individual; perhaps dating a Lindsey will be liberating and make him happier. Lindsey originally thinks she is content dating The Other Colin and living in the small town of Gutshot: nothing really good happens, but nothing really bad happens either. She comes to realize that there is life beyond the store and the factory. Hassan likewise needs to change his whole outlook on life and what he is doing to make that change. For Hassan, the change may not be comfortable—going to school requires more energy and determination than watching television—but it is exactly that kind of uncomfortable change that will allow him to grow the most.

Colin often discusses the idea of mattering or being remembered. This is why he spends so much time working on his theorem: he will be special again, Katherine will love him again, and, in the history books, he will matter. He comes to learn that people do not remember you for your theorems or great philosophies; you live on through your friends, your stories, your personal history, as the people in Gutshot will live on through the oral histories Hassan and Colin collect. It is also the reason Archduke Franz Ferdinand lived on. He did not do anything particularly remarkable, except get shot—but he is remembered as the man whose death started World War I.

This concept is also exemplified by Hollis. When the factory began producing more tampon strings that it could sell, Hollis could have laid off three-quarters of the people who worked there, essentially decimating the population of Gutshot. She could have stopped paying pensions or providing benefits to retirees. However, she cared too deeply about these people, and these people cared too deeply about Gutshot for Hollis to be able to do that to them.

This kind of selfless act is shown in Hassan as well. Hassan has always been there for Colin when a Katherine broke up with him, and he was always abandoned every time a new Katherine showed up. Hassan listened to Colin’s complaining and his random bits of knowledge in exchange for a friendship. When Colin realizes this, he tries to return those kinds of actions to Hassan. Those who care only about their own needs (e.g., "The Other Colin") end up with nothing.

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