Summary of the book Flatland.

For those who have not yet read Flatland, we may give a brief summary of its one hundred pages. The two-dimensional narrator 'A Square' describes his flat universe, as it appears to a Spaceland observer, and as it appears to its inhabitants. He treats the methods of recognition of the number of sides of a being, correlated with social status in this highly stratified society (see Figure 3). He tells in detail about the social relationships in this restricted world, in particular the low status of women, who are depicted as straight line segments. (it is important to point out that the author himself was a well-respected Victorian educational reformer with special concern for the lack of opportunities for women. His frustrations in dealing with the educational establishment are the basis of his sharpest satirical thrusts.) The narrator describes the ruthless treatment of 'irregulars' and the devices used by the ruling polygonal and circular classes to enforce a rigid hierarchical structure, including the suppression of the use of color and the putting down of the 'chromatic sedition'.

Into this self-contained and self-absorbed society comes a revelation of a totally new order of existence, with the intrusion of a being from a higher dimension, 'A Sphere'. As the Spaceland visitor passes through Flatland, he appears first as a point which grows through a succession of circular slices until it reaches its full diameter, then shrinks back down to a point and disappears. Much of the rest of the book is given to the education of A Square, who has to learn to. interpret the visit not as a two- dimensional creature growing and changing in time but rather as a being from a higher dimension, the existence of which he never previously imagined.

In the process he necessarily re-evaluates all the preconceptions he had about the nature of reality, as he gradually becomes enlightened. He eventually outstrips his teacher and aspires to worlds of even higher dimension, but in the end the experience is too much for the poor Flatlander, who must return to his world and try to convert the resistant inhabitants with his new-found knowledge. Like other prophets, he suffers rejection and incarceration. Flatland contains his message from prison, and a plea to all readers for the enlargement of imagination and cultivation of that rarest gift of modesty.