Flatland

Flatland Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A Square violently tries to rush his strongest right angle into the Sphere, but the Sphere raises himself out of Flatland. Intent on making A Square an apostle that will spread the Gospel of the Three Dimensions, the Sphere decides to use deeds instead of words to make his point. He tells A Square that he will descend into a cupboard and empty a box full of money that A Square had locked away half an hour ago. A Square then discovers that the box is indeed gone, while the Sphere continues to explain that Flatland is simply a plane and A Square can see all that the Sphere sees if he has the determination to.
The portrayal of A Square as an apostle spreading the gospel makes the religious overtones of Abbott’s allegory very clear. Although A Square resorts to violence, the Sphere is not harmed in any way. The knowledge that he possesses affords him an elevated status (literally), such that he cannot be hurt by A Square’s attempt to lash out. Once again words are shown to be insufficient in communicating certain kinds of knowledge.
Themes
Religion, Divinity, and the Unknown Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma Theme Icon
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon
The Sphere describes how his aerial view of Flatland broadens as he rises, while the objects become smaller. He then declares that he will touch the inside of A Square to prove that he comes from the third dimension. A Square feels pain from the Sphere’s touch and decides to rush at his visitor again. He alerts the entire household for help. The Sphere tries to calm the square down, since no other figure must know what he has taught A Square. To no avail, the Sphere eventually takes A Square physically out of the plane.
The Sphere’s reaching “into” A Square resembles the biblical story of the doubtful apostle Thomas who only accepts Christ’s resurrection after he literally feels Christ’s wounds. But this Flatland rendition has the apostle (that is, A Square) bear the touch, and yet A Square still doubts the Sphere. The only way left for the Sphere, then, is to take A Square into the “miracle” itself.
Themes
Religion, Divinity, and the Unknown Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma Theme Icon
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon
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