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.
Analogy as Satire Theme Icon

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 of a useful lexicon, or vocabulary. For instance, the Sphere gets stuck because he is unable to define “upward” and “figure” to the confused and frustrated A Square. Similarly, the word “side” also has a different meaning to the Flatlander than it does to the three-dimensional Sphere. Therefore, the teachers, such as the Sphere to A Square, or A Square to the Monarch of Lineland, resort to using deeds and actions (instead of words and analogies) in order to educate their respective pupils.

Abbott, thus, suggests the limitation of words to bring about change. In order to enlighten those who have not yet grasped new knowledge, he shows that the teacher must actively seek change through visual demonstration or physical motion. Since he could not describe “left” and “right” solely with words, A Square actually moves in and out of Lineland to actively demonstrate the directional motions. The Sphere touches the stomach of A Square to prove that he indeed can see into two-dimensional figures. When this fails, he physically takes A Square into Spaceland to prove the existence of the third dimension once and for all.

In a way, Abbott’s writing of Flatland is an educational action in and of itself. Just as the Sphere takes A Square into Spaceland to make A Square see the world in a new way, Abbott takes the reader into the fictional world of Flatland to demonstrate analogically the absurdities of Victorian society. To make this “deed” work, Abbott must fully create the world of Flatland—it must be something that his readers can see and feel. Abbott has A Square call the two-dimensional shapes of Flatland “humans”, “men”, and “people” because he needs them to feel real to readers. Only by creating a bizarre world that feels both real and like a very direct analogy to the way in which British society was organized during the Victorian Age, can Abbott satirize the dangers inherent in a society so strictly organized and run by those with and in power.

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Analogy as Satire ThemeTracker

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Analogy as Satire Quotes in Flatland

Below you will find the important quotes in Flatland related to the theme of Analogy as Satire.
Chapter 4 Quotes

A Male of the lowest type of the Isosceles may look forward to some improvement of his angle, and to the ultimate elevation off the whole of his degraded case, but no Women can entertain such hopes for her sex. ‘Once a Woman, always a Woman’ is a Decree of Nature; and the very Laws of Evolution seem suspended in her disfavour.

Related Characters: A Square (speaker)
Page Number: Page 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

It is with us a Law of Nature that the brain of the Isosceles class shall begin at half a degree, or thirty minutes, and shall increase (if it increases at all) by half a degree in every generation until the goal of 60 degrees is reached, when the condition of serfdom is quitted, and the freeman enters the class of Regulars.

Related Characters: A Square (speaker)
Page Number: Page 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

It seemed that this poor ignorant Monarch—as he called himself—was persuaded that the Straight Line which he called his Kingdom, and in which he passed his existence, constituted the whole of the world, and indeed the whole of Space.

Related Characters: A Square (speaker), The Monarch of Lineland
Page Number: Pages 44-45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

“Go to bed,” said I, a little ruffled by this interruption: “If you would talk less nonsense, you would remember more sense.”

Related Characters: A Square (speaker), A Square’s Grandson
Page Number: Page 53
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

Why will you refuse to listen to reason? I had hoped to find in you—as being a man of sense and an accomplished mathematician—a fit apostle for the Gospel of the Three Dimensions, which I am allowed to preach once only in a thousand years…

Related Characters: The Sphere / The Stranger (speaker), A Square
Page Number: Page 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Henceforth, I have to relate the story of my miserable Fall:—most miserable, yet surely most undeserved! For why should the thirst for knowledge be aroused, only to be disappointed and punished?

Related Characters: A Square (speaker)
Page Number: Page 70
Explanation and Analysis:

And even as we, who are now in Space, look down on Flatland and see the insides of all things, so of a certainty there is yet above us some higher purer region, whither thou dost surely purpose to lead me…

Related Characters: A Square (speaker), The Sphere / The Stranger
Page Number: Page 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

Yet mark his perfect self-contentment, and hence learn his lesson, that to be self-contented is to be vile and ignorant, and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy.

Related Characters: The Sphere / The Stranger (speaker), The Monarch of Pointland
Page Number: Page 75
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

Yet I exist in the hope that these memoirs, in some manner, I know not how, may find their way to the minds of humanity in Some Dimension, and may stir up a race of rebels who shall refuse to be confined to limited Dimensionality.

Related Characters: A Square (speaker)
Page Number: Page 82
Explanation and Analysis: