Chris's Reviews > Flatland

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
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Aug 27, 2010

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Read in August, 2010

Before you read this review, you have to watch this short animated video:

That was the video that first piqued my interest in this subject, so when I found the book it was derived from for 25 cents at a book sale I couldn’t pass it up. I have passed the video on to many people, and so for the first time, I was able to explore the idea behind it more in depth from the mind of its 19th century progenitor, E.A. Abbot.

This was an interesting 100-page read of a journey into a realm of two-dimensional beings that cannot conceive of any other reality except for their own. The rational possibility of a 2-d world may sound pretty childish on first encounter, but logically it is a feat of imagination that actually takes quite a bit of logical prowess to pull off and remain consistent. Not that this book is entirely seamless in logic, but I was amazed at the extent of quasi-reality that could be constructed from a flat plane of vision and basic shapes. It all still seems kind of insane when I think about it, but as an apparatus for allegory, it was actually carried out quite well.

The story unfolds with a description of Flatland and its inhabitants, and—the real purpose behind its creation—a short adventure of a Mr. Square that initially discovers the errors of 1-dimensional narrow-mindedness, extends his idea to adduce the possibility of a 3rd dimension beyond his own, and later experiences an epiphany from a mind-altering 3-dimensional visitor. The real surprise in the story, and really the chocolate center of the tale, is the recoil of the dimensional denizens away from any revelation that undermined their present view of reality, and the persecution of any harbinger of these extra-dimensional gospels.

The parallel to our own situation is pretty obvious, and is actually quite a cogent inference of our own 3-D provincialism of thought and action. Could it be that, just as Flatland natives could not turn their head in their bellies to discover their own world’s boundaries, so we might not be able to turn our mind to focus on the boundaries of our own existence without the help of a trans-dimensional being? And would we be just as obdurate as Mr. Square in rejecting a new understanding of our world (or the next) simply because we found it contrary to our normal ways of thinking, or because we found it socially unacceptable? The history of societies’ savagery against anyone who has experienced a foreign influence of ‘otherness’ seems to answer in the affirmative.

“…oh you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you!”

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message 1: by John (new)

John My sentiments approximately!

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