In a two-dimensional universe populated by a hierarchical society of geometric figures, a square is persecuted for attempting to reveal its new knowledge of a third dimension, learned from encounters with a sphere.
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In "Flatland," Abbott creates a fictional world, called Flatland, of only two dimensions inhabited by two-dimensional beings. The narrator, A. Square, begins by introducing readers to his two-dimensional world, including its different types of life and its social order. Watch the trailer of the movie version of Flatland to aid you in visualizing what a two-dimensional world would look like. (This annotation contains a video)
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Which of the following is true of the narrator's point of view?
It is very important to note that Flatland is a SATIRE of Victorian social structures and mores, specifically in regards to women's role in society and the strict class-based hierarchy. Use this link to review the definition of satire and to help you answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
Which of the following is NOT true of a satirical work?
Which of the following statements is true of Flatland's social hierarchy?
Women in Flatland are simple line segments; however, they are powerful figures, since their sharp forms can puncture and deflate the males. Given this fact and their emotionally volatile natures, women in Flatland are governed by sets of rules that limit their full participation in society. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best summarizes how women are perceived in Flatland?
The highlighted sentence proposes a valid question for a society so fixated on class status. A. Square, the narrator, goes on to explain that the classes are distinguished using three methods: the Art of Hearing, the Art of Feeling, and the Art of Sight Recognition (aided by Fog).
Which of the following best describes the narrator's tone when he mentions isosceles triangles?
Fog is a symbolic motif in many Victorian and Gothic texts, along with other genres of works. Fog typically symbolizes mysteriousness and ambiguity, while creating a sense of tension and suspense. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (fog=mysteriousness, suspense), The Things They Carried (fog=ambiguity) and Heart of Darkness (fog=tension and ambiguity), for example, all utilize fog as a symbolic motif. (This annotation contains an image)
Using the information in the last annotation as a comparison, how is fog utilized in this text?
Watch this clip from the show "The Big Bang Theory" to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
What concepts from Flatland are incorporated into the clip from "The Big Bang Theory"?
"...pure from the pollution of paint."The alliteration used in the highlighted phrase achieves which effect?
Mother Nature is a common personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it in the form of the mother. The word nature comes from the Latin word "natura," meaning birth or character. (This annotation contains an image)
Which other subject does this book rely on for its principles and philosophies?
Women are simple line segments in Flatland to represent the second-class status of women in Victorian society. (This annotation contains an image)
The use of color eliminated which of the Arts from all of the classes except the Circle?
Which of the following historical events is most similar to what happened in Flatland?
Did you wonder about any of these questions? The narrator predicts some issues that may arise when a "Spacelander" such as yourself attempts to comprehend living in a two-dimensional world.
What role does the narrative voice play in the story?
It is clear in this section that the importance of conformity is a theme in this book. What other themes have you noticed while reading? Watch this video to help you identify themes. (This annotation contains a video)
Don't forget that this story is satirical, and that the point is to ridicule a flaw in society. Another famously shocking satirical work is Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," in which he suggests eating babies as a solution to his country's poverty problem. (This annotation contains an image)
In addition to Spaceland and Flatland, which other world is introduced in this chapter?
The Monarch of Lineland's ignorance and condescending attitude is ironic. It also foreshadows that perhaps A. Square will feel similarly when confronted with a being that has more dimensions than him.
How do the inhabitants of Lineland identify each other?
Read W.H. Auden's poem "The Unknown Citizen" using this link to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
How does Auden's satirical poem and its message about living a perfectly average life reflect the book's theme of conformity?
A. Square's encounter with Lord Sphere is a metaphor for humanity's limited understanding of the divine. It also illustrates the theme of fear of the unknown. (This annotation contains an image)
Which tone does A. Square use when he speaks to Stranger?
Watch this clip that illustrates this part of the book to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
How does the clip portray Flatland? How is it similar or different to how you imagine it as you are reading?
Which part of the highlighted passage indicates that this story is from a specific time period?
The diction in this paragraph, such as "apostle," "Gospel," "preach," and "shall proclaim" help to create the metaphor for humanity's limited understanding of the divine; the divine, in this case, being Sphere.
The paradox in this paragraph helps to create which effect?
Abbott is using word play here. "Plains" could refer to how Flatland is simple and plain in comparison to Spaceland. It also refers to a "plane," a flat, two-dimensional surface. (This annotation contains an image)
Use the define feature to look up the definition of the word, "conclave." Then explain how this particular word is an effective choice to further illustrate humanity's limited understanding of the divine.
Spreading the knowledge of a third dimension is punishable by death in Flatland. Keeping their citizens ignorant facilitates conformity.
If you look at the definition for the highlighted word, you will see that it is an archaic version of saying "showed." Sphere has used a few antiquated words like this. Consider what effect this type of diction has on his character and how the other characters in the book would perceive his way of speaking.
This is, in fact, also the climax of the book. What reasons can you give as to why this point in the story is the climax?
Prometheus is from Greek mythology; he is best known as the benefactor who brought fire to mankind. Because he stole the fire from Zeus, Prometheus’s deed was seen as one of the biggest crimes ever. However, the gift of fire greatly improved the human race forever. (This annotation contains an image)
This image is a 3D projection of a tesseract undergoing a simple rotation in four dimensional space. (This annotation contains an image)
Which literary technique is employed in the highlighted text and what is its effect?
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist. (This annotation contains an image)
Watch this quick video on static and dynamic characters before you answer the next question. (This annotation contains a video)
Is A.Square a static character or a dynamic character? Explain your answer using evidence from the text.
In his essay "Civil Disobedience," American Transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau writes, "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine... Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also prison." Does A. Square's current situation demonstrate Thoreau's philosophy, and which theme does it illustrate from the text?