Top positive review
Revolutionary concepts despite its age!
on 3 December 2017
At just over eighty pages this is a short novel, but by no means a simple text. Written in 1884, this book is full of ideas that will interest mathematicians, physicists, historians, sociologists, politicians and paranormalists alike. It deals with issues such as eugenics, equality, revolution, the rigid class system of the late Victorian era, mathematical shapes, higher dimensions, shape-shifting and teleportation.
The book is narrated to the reader by an inhabitant of Flatland, a Mr A. Square who happens to be a mathematician. The first half of the book describes the Flatland’s houses, its inhabitants and its history. From this we learn that the lowliest members of society, represented by straight lines, are its women. They are deemed to be stupid, emotional and unfit for education. Although feminists will hate this part of the book, it was however an atypical view of women throughout Victorian society, and the author is parodying this view. The author informs us that failing to educate women has an adverse effect upon the intellectual development of future generations of women and men.
Other shapes within Flatland reflect the rigid class system of this society. The more sides a regular shape possesses, the higher its place within society. The ultimate expressions of this ideal are the circles who represent the society’s political and religious leaders. All shapes aspire for a better life for their offspring and will send their children to be re-shaped at schools so that they can enjoy a better life. Irregular shapes are deemed a threat to society and are euthanized at birth, or imprisoned / executed in later life. Why? Because, these irregular shapes either end up as criminals or as revolutionaries.
Life for the majority of the triangles, who represent the bulk of the working class, is one of constant drudgery. This underlying current of discontent once led to the Colour Revolution. But this rallying cry for equality did not make everyone’s lives better, instead it led to the intolerable situation where the middle classes were dragged down to the same level as the criminals and the… women! The Revolution failed. Thereafter, the rulers carefully manipulated the working class so that they would fight each other.
In the second half of the book, Mr A. Square experiences a dream where he is living in a one dimensional reality; a vision where he is transplanted into a three dimensional reality by a god-like sphere; and then he has another dream where he experiences a reality with no dimensions. Mr. A Square fails to get either the one dimensional inhabitants or the sole non-dimensional inhabitant to comprehend the concept of a two dimensional reality. Equally, he finds it difficult to understand the sphere’s explanation of three dimensional space and is confounded by his attempts to get other inhabitants of Flatland to believe or understand him. He even ponders the possibility of four to eight dimensions. This section of the book deals with concepts such as teleportation, omniscience and shape-shifting.
One slight problem, in the two dimensional world there is no Sun or any stars, so there is no light. Yet the shapes identify can each other by sight! For anyone to see anything, light has to be absorbed by an atom, resulting in the excitation of that atom – it then gives off a photon of a particular wavelength which the retina can then see. Admittedly, only a minor point and should not detract from the main issues raised in the book.
This book will appeal to many readers. It is a damning indictment of the class ridden society of the Victorian era – a class system which is still evident in today’s world. It is also an insightful portrayal of life for any creature living in different dimensions.