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Flatland is a satirical novella by Edwin Abbott Abbott. Writing pseudonymously as "A Square", the book used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to offer pointed observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. However, the novella's more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions. The story is about a two-dimensional world referred to as Flatland which is occupied by geometric figures. Women are simple line-segments, while men are polygons with various numbers of sides. The narrator is a humble square, a member of the social caste of gentlemen and professionals in a society of geometric figures, who guides the readers through some of the implications of life in two dimensions. The Square has a dream about a visit to a one-dimensional world (Lineland) which is inhabited by "lustrous points". He attempts to convince the realm's ignorant monarch of a second dimension but finds that it is essentially impossible to make him see outside of his eternally straight line. He is then visited by a three-dimensional sphere, which he cannot comprehend until he sees Spaceland for himself. This Sphere (who remains nameless, like all characters in the novella) visits Flatland at the turn of each millennium to introduce a new apostle to the idea of a third dimension in the hopes of eventually educating the population of Flatland of the existence of Spaceland. From the safety of Spaceland, they are able to observe the leaders of Flatland secretly acknowledging the existence of the sphere and prescribing the silencing of anyone found preaching the truth of Spaceland and the third dimension. After this proclamation is made, many witnesses are massacred or imprisoned (according to caste).
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About the Author
Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926) was headmaster at City of London School. He was Hulsean Lecturer at Cambridge in 1876 and Select Preacher at Oxford in the succeeding year. He retired in 1889, devoting himself to literary and theological pursuits. Dr. Abbott's liberal inclinations in theology were prominent both in his educational views and in his books. His 'Shakespearean Grammar' (1870) is a permanent contribution to English philology. In 1885 he published a life of Francis Bacon.