Flatland is broken up into two parts. In the first A Square explains to the reader his universe which is called Flatland, a two dimensional world. There are only two dimensions in Flatland: one that runs North to South and one that run West to East. All women are Lines and there is a separate caste system based around the number of sides one has. In such system, the lowest caste are isosceles triangles, for how can one be worthy of respect if they are not regular shapes. I mean, two of their sides are different lengths than the third. The highest caste, Priests, are made up of regular polygons of so many sides that they approximate Circles. The reader also learns of the geography of Flatland, of housing, of how women should comport themselves, of education, and of Flatland’s history.
The entire first part is a satirical criticism of norms in Victorian culture. In the Oxford World’s Classics edition there is an introduction and notes at the end that help make the satirical criticisms in Flatland clear to a modern reader. Even if the reader does not fully understand the criticism that Abbott was aiming for, it is impossible to miss his wit and cleverness.
The second part of Flatland is an exploration of dimensions. Here, Abbott the mathematician, takes over. We read of our narrator, A Square, dreaming of Lineland, a one dimensional universe in which everyone exists in a single line with no traveling. A Square does what he can to explain to the monarch of Lineland that there is another dimension beyond the one they can experience to less than stellar results. The next day, A Square is visited by a sphere on a mission to explain to the citizens of Flatland that there is a dimension beyond what they can experience. Sound familiar? What ensues is a wonderful and insightful discussion of mathematical dimensions and the hubris of educators. The reader will come out of reading Flatland with a better understanding of geometry and with a reminder that there is always someone who is more knowledgable.
I love this book; it brings me so much joy. Its whimsical critique of social norms and discussion of mathematical constructs just tickles me. I still laugh when I read it, and I still start and finish the book in the same day, as I cannot bring myself to put it down.
BINGO – Happy