Synopsis:


This story takes place in a fictional, two dimensional plane called “Flatland”. The inhabitants of Flatland are two dimensional figures and their place in society is solely based upon their “regularity”, degree of angles, and the number of sides of their figure. Women are generally considered worthless as they are only a line and figures with irregular angles are often killed at birth. The inhabitants of Flatland know nothing of three dimensional space. The narrator dreams he visits a one dimensional land and is frustrated by their close-minded view of their world. The narrator is visited by a sphere from three dimensional space. The sphere attempts to explain what his world is like. However, the narrator refuses to accept the visitor’s explanation of a third dimension. The sphere becomes so aggravated by the narrator’s closed-minded attitude that he spirits him away into the third dimension to observe Flatland from a new perspective. The narrator not only becomes a believer of a land with three dimensions, he wants the sphere to show him lands with four, five, six or more dimensions. The sphere cannot comprehend a land with more than three dimensions and becomes very irritated with the narrator. Ultimately, the narrator is returned to Flatland where he is unable to discuss his amazing experience with his family and friends because the governing council had issued a proclamation to imprison anyone who said they have visited another world. The narrator was unable to keep his knowledge to himself and is imprisoned. The story ends with the narrator having been in prison for 7 years after causing an uproar caused by his heretical teachings regarding the existence of a third dimension.



Review:


The book is difficult to follow since it was first published in 1884 and some of the attitudes portrayed, such as the devaluation of women, are not acceptable in today’s society. As a result, it is not likely to appeal to younger readers. The story includes several worthwhile schematic drawings which encourage the reader to consider various two dimensional projections and three dimensional intersections with a plane. The book’s strength is getting the reader to acknowledge the possibility of new ideas and experiences. The “truth” need not be limited only to what is taught in school. People should continue to seek knowledge throughout their lives. In addition, it is okay to question the status-quo. Without questioning the current beliefs of society, we would not have the technology that exists today.



Summary of class or Student Activity:


While we do not believe the book should be assigned as required reading in the secondary education classroom setting, concepts from the book can be used for discussion points. For example, ask the students to explain the difference between two dimensional figures and three dimensional objects. The students could be asked to draw two dimensional and three dimensional figures from different points of view. For instance, what does a circle look like if you lay it flat and look at it at eye level. Or perhaps what would a triangular pyramid look like if viewed from the top of the pyramid. In addition, students can be asked to explain the difference between a triangle and a pyramid. Another topic could be discussing the number of sides in an object such as a square versus a cube. Finally, students can be asked to explain the difference between regular and irregular polygons.



Contributers:


Fred Nassehi: Synopsis, Review, Summary of Class or Student Activity
Joe Draper: Summary of Class or Student Activity
Anthony Pompa: Summary of Class or Student Activity
Cindy Kasper: Synopsis, Review