Edwin A. Abbott

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Themes and Colors
Social Hierarchy and Oppression Theme Icon
Religion, Divinity, and the Unknown Theme Icon
Reason vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma Theme Icon
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Flatland, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Social Hierarchy and Oppression

Edwin Abbott wrote Flatland as a social satire of Victorian England, and the central target of Abbott’s ire was the class rigidity that characterized English society in the nineteenth century. Because of this, fully half of his book is devoted to an exhaustive cataloguing—to the point of absurdity—of the horrifying and intricate ways in which the social hierarchy of the fictional world of Flatland is established and maintained. Abbott shows that this hierarchy is harmful…

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Religion, Divinity, and the Unknown

The disconnect between faith, knowledge, and religious orthodoxy is another aspect of Victorian England that Abbott uses Flatland to satirize. Abbott was a devout Christian himself, as well as a prolific writer on Christian theology, and his books occasionally caused a stir in the powerful Anglican Church. Thus, Flatland’s portrayal of a society’s attempt to suppress the “dangerous” knowledge of other dimensions can be seen as an indictment of hierarchical religious institutions (like the Anglican…

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Reason vs. Emotion

In his treatise on Flatland and other worlds, A Square frequently ponders and hashes out the differences between reason and emotion. In Flatland, Reason is seen as superior. It is the exclusive right of the male figures, who believe themselves to be unique in having the ability to think rationally and gain knowledge of their world. Emotion, on the other hand, is limited to the realm of the women and believed to represent the exact…

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Knowledge and Truth vs. Dogma

The second half of Flatland is particularly invested in the search for knowledge and truth. After A Square learns of a higher three-dimensional world, he gains a thirst to discover and understand worlds of four, five, and even six dimensions. Part 1 of the book intricately describes what is taken to be truth in Flatland. However, the exploration of other dimensional worlds in Part 2 immediately exposes how limited that knowledge really is, and, in…

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Analogy as Satire

Throughout Flatland, analogy is used as the primary method for explaining new and unfamiliar concepts by using what’s already familiar to the one being taught. When the Sphere attempts to describe the third dimension, for example, he uses geometrical and arithmetic progression to help A Square make sense of the concept. However, it is soon obvious that analogy, or more specifically, words, fail to fully convey an unfamiliar concept because of the lack…

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