Flatland

Flatland Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A Square begins a discussion of the women of Flatland. He starts by warning his readers of the power of women, whose two pointy extremities (since they are straight lines) are dangerous in any collision. They also can make themselves invisible by turning a certain way.
Abbott’s emphasis on the potential threat posed by Flatland women (who are clearly analogous to real women) illustrates one of the powerful effects of satire—its discrete ability to convey a real-life message to readers.
Themes
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon
In order to minimize the dangers posed by women, there are prescribed laws that restrict them. First, every house must have an eastern entrance that is designated for women. Second, they must always emit a “peace-cry” whenever they are in public. And third, any female who is suffering from a disease that causes involuntary motion will be immediately destroyed.
Again, take notice of how those in power establish barriers (through legislative and punitive means) to keep the powerless eternally weak—and they do this particularly because women are not inherently weak, but in fact very dangerous.
Themes
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
An additional law requires women to wiggle their backs from left to right as they walk, in order to indicate their presence. Other states in Flatland ask women to be accompanied by someone when travelling, while others even restrict women from leaving their houses except for religious festivals.
The laws passed in Flatland are humorously absurd and satirical, even as they also portray a brutally repressive society. Clearly, Abbott is making a point that one should question the way in which society and its laws are organized.
Themes
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon
In light of the social restrictions on women, A Square explains, the statesmen of Flatland have found that a too prohibitive Code has the tendency to result in backlash from women, which then causes more harm than good to the State.
Similar to the way the state utilizes the hope of social mobility to prevent rebellion, it also finds an optimal amount of prohibition to preserve the hierarchy.
Themes
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
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A Square asserts that Flatland women are prone to affection as a result of their unfortunate configuration. They lack brainpower and the ability to reflect, judge, and remember. Thus, he notes the occasional violent outbursts of women against men who have gotten on their bad sides.
A Square describes women in a very matter-of-fact tone, as if he is citing facts. However, it must be noted that the supposed “emotional” tendency of women is a constructed piece of knowledge that is taught as true in order to discriminate between the sexes. This gendering of emotion and reason is also another piece of satire that strikes very close to home in the real world.
Themes
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma Theme Icon
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon
Although A Square acknowledges how horrifying Flatland’s treatment of women would seem to his readers in Spaceland, he explains that nature has established that “Once a Woman, always a Woman.”
A Square illustrates how declaring something as “nature” renders it as permanent truth, even it is discriminatory (and seemingly arbitrary as well).
Themes
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma Theme Icon
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon