Flatland

Flatland Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A Square states that all the previous chapters have been introductory notes, and he says that Part II will begin discussing the central topic of his book: the mysteries of Space. He proceeds to painstakingly list all the details about Flatland—their method of motion, infrastructure, their alphabet, etc.—that he must omit describing due to limited time.
Abbott does not sacrifice any space to describing a Flatlanders’ daily life—instead, he chooses to use the entire first part of the book to explain how this fictional society is organized. Now, the second part is devoted to satirizing another aspect of Victorian Britain: the Church and its control over religious dogma.
Themes
Religion, Divinity, and the Unknown Theme Icon
Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma Theme Icon
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon
Before A Square attends to the main subject of his book, he makes a few remarks on the Priest class of Flatland, the Circles. In Flatland, they are the ultimate decision-makers of all aspects of life, such as business, art and science, and theology. However, A Square reveals that no Circle truly a circle, but rather a polygon with numerous small sides. Furthermore, he mentions that feeling a circle is socially unacceptable in Flatland, so this allows the Priests to remain mysterious. By convention, it is assumed that the Chief Circle has 10,000 sides.
Note the specific decisions made by the author, such as Abbott’s choice to focus on describing the amount of influence held by the Circles, who he deliberately names as “priests.” Surely, he is alluding to the priests that have a similar stronghold in Victorian England. Abbott immediately challenges religious authority by asserting that no priest is truly a real circle, but instead, they claim prestige by setting conventions (i.e. claiming to have 10,000 sides while also making it socially unacceptable to actually count a Circle’s sides).
Themes
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Religion, Divinity, and the Unknown Theme Icon
Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma Theme Icon
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon
A Square continues by explaining the unique way circles are born. By “natural law,” as circles ascend the social ladder, their development accelerates, while at the same time, the race becomes less fertile. Therefore, the rare son of a 500-sided polygon may have a son with 550 sides.
Similar to other laws, this law of nature also perpetuates social stratification by giving more power to those in higher classes and also limiting the size of the upper classes in order to enjoy a larger share of the benefits. Once again, notice that they claim that the law is of divine design—that it is decided by God.
Themes
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma Theme Icon
A Square also describes how Art can intervene in the process of “evolution.” Flatland physicians have discovered a way of adding more sides to infant circles whose frames have not completely set. Although rarely one out of ten survive, many Circular parents send their children to the Neo-Therapeutic Gymnasium.
The cruel measures that are taken by Circular parents to elevate their own statuses through their children illustrate how power-hungry one can become. They are so greedy for power that they seek artificial (and potentially deadly) ways to increase the number of sides of their sons.
Themes
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Get the entire Flatland LitChart as a printable PDF.
Flatland.pdf.medium