Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Abbott, Edwin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler
  • Date of entry: Aug-11-2005


Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is a delightful experimental novella, a fictional exploration of dimensions and perspectives beginning in a two-dimensional world, Flatland, populated by two-dimensional geometrical shapes. The novella is narrated by one of Flatland's residents, A. Square (when the novella was first published in 1884, it was published under the pseudonym, "A. Square").

The first half of the novella is a description of this two-dimensional world, such as how it looks and how the figures move, spiced up with a clever dissection of Flatland's social hierarchy, which is dictated by the number of sides one has. Square's subsequent explorations lead him to Lineland (a one-dimensional world), Pointland (no dimensions), and then to Spaceland with its three dimensions.


Even though it can be enjoyed as a science fiction, or, properly, mathematical fiction, Flatland is also a pointed (no pun intended) critique of Victorian social hierarchies and a clever appropriation of colonial exploration genres (written about the same time as H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines).

Relativism has rarely been explored in such a succinct way, or with such charm as in Flatland: where we are, the world we are located in, defines the parameters of our understanding. The novella does not say that we cannot break out of these parameters, but rather that any subsequent explorations are always tempered by where we have come from. Written some time before Einstein (he was still a child), this novella can nevertheless serve as a gentle primer for both scientific relativism and cultural relativism.


First published in 1884, under the charming pseudonym "A. Square"


Dover Thrift Editions

Place Published

New York



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