Saturday, April 3, 2010

Flatland - A Romance Of Many Dimensions

by Edwin A. Abbott
Read between 28/3/10-3/4/2010
It took me a week although if it is read continuously, the 82 pages wouldn't take more than 4 hours.

A very interesting book, one that can be inferred from the unique title.
Language is a bit hard but all in all, a fun read.

The story tells from the first person view of a square; his life in Flatland, the community and civilization in Flatland and all it's history.

My say
The premise of the story is already an exciting one and the writer's further exploration of the idea doesn't fail to interest the readers. It follows the monologue of a square, a mathematician in Flatland, who describes the nature of Flatland, the history and also the people.

There are about 4 tiers of society in Flatland and they are categorised by their shape and degree. The degree represents somewhat the intellect of the people, while the shape represents their place in society.
  • The triangle is the lowest tier in the society. Isosceles that has the smallest angle i.e. sharp angle, is regarded as the most stupid. They are usually employed in army due to their dangerous nature.
  • The middle class consist of equilaterals. The most perfect of equilateral has 60° degrees, and they normally will give have children of squares.
  • The professionals consist of squares and pentagons.
  • The highest in the pyramid is the Circle, or to be exact, polygons that have too many sides that it appears as a circle.
So the book is funny, as it creates new concept from existing known things to us and the represents it in a different idea. It then tells how the shapes live in Flatland, how they went to work, the young ones study and such. The concept and description are in detail and very creative, though not without flaws. The writer(square) kept saying it doesn't have time to explain about certain things such as how they cook, build their house and such, though in the end the square only spent his time in prison doing nothing. Clearly that contradicts.
Another thing is the book seems to have a very low view on woman. It was written in 1884 so I assume it didn't cause much a protest from the woman of that era compared to the reaction it would get in this days. I am saying that because the woman at Flatland are depicted as mindless beings that hardly can learn anything. As a man, I find the depiction(albeit fiction) of the other sex in the book a bit harsh.

After describing the background, the square then tells it encounters with Lineland, Spaceland and Pointland (1 dimension, 3 dimension and 0 dimension, respectively. Square have dialogues with Sphere, a being from Spaceland, a mind-opening experience for both him and the readers. He later converts(?) to the Sphere disciple and began preaching to the Flatland's inhabitants before he was later imprisoned as some kind of heretic. Poor Square.

The book is simply a good analogy in defining time travel, is it not?

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