Flatland Essay - Critical Essays

Edwin A. Abbott


Flatland functions as a geometry lesson, a satire of Victorian England, and an attempt to mediate the nineteenth century debate between science and religion. As a geometry lesson, the novel illustrates basic concepts of dimensionality in a manner appealing to young readers. Abbott, who was the headmaster of the City of London School, recognized the value of entertainment in instruction and advocated a broad, liberal education for his students.

His novel is also a satire of Victorian England, specifically its class consciousness, its penchant for conformity, and its disenfranchisement of women. The Color Revolt, in particular, ridicules conformity in art and the societal forces that stifle creativity and individuality.

Finally, in its suggestion of higher dimensionality, Flatland offers a plausible, though not scientifically provable, explanation for the spiritual world, including God and heaven. Using induction to demystify supernatural phenomena, Abbott effectively bridges the chasm between observable fact and blind faith and shows that science and religion are not necessarily incompatible.

The structure of the novel complements its theme. Divided into two parts, Flatland has twenty-two chapters. The chapters often pair off, treating first a general topic and then a subtopic. For example, chapter 5 discusses Flatlanders methods of recognizing one another, and chapter 6 focuses on the art of sight...

(The entire section is 406 words.)