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Customer Review

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Math at its Best, May 18, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
From the square character's world of two dimensions in Flatland to the Sphere's three dimensional Spaceland, one comes to recognize the role of dimensions in geometry and in thinking in Abbott's Flatland. Both a mathematical essay and a satire the book challenges readers to discover dimensions for themselves in an unusual story. Beyond the story of the square lawyer protagonist and his adventure with the Sphere is the satire on Abbott's English society. Women are depicted as lines with the power to destroy men with there sharp, pointed ends. They are forced to remain in a constant waving motion as a courtesy to men in order to remain visible. An interesting predicament surfaces when coloring becomes a popular practice in identification. Women from certain viewpoints appear the same color as priests, much to the priests' chagrin. In sum, the women appear to have an inferior role to the multi-sided men as women faced inequality in late 19th century society. Secondly, the shapes themselves present a hierarchy of society. From the irregular figures to the noble Circles, each shape has its own ranking and occupations. Moreover, each shape is subdivided into figures that have a higher status in the Flatland world. For example, the equilateral triangle is seen as superior to any of the other isosceles triangle with top angles of less than sixty. These shapes have little hope of progressing; hope lies in their offspring which may possess a more respected number of equal sides. This can be seen as an analogy to the lower classes struggle to achieve success in the society dominated by the wealthy or aristocratic. While the story of Flatland may be a mockery of Victorian England, its heart is its mathematical meaning. It serves as an interesting and understandable window into the subject of dimensions. From Lineland, which knows no left or right directions, to the abstract Fourth Dimension, where it is possible to look inside a solid object, readers are introduced to new ways of thinking not usually encountered in math class. Most importantly, the text of the book is not beyond the scope of someone with a casual interest in the topic. Anyone can appreciate the search for the meanings of dimension and truth in easy to comprehend analogies presented by the author. Another math topic addressed is the discovery of new ideas themselves. Abbott shows that math is a field where anyone with an interest has a chance to succeed just as the main character stumbles upon the meaning of dimensions from thoughts from his grandson. He pursues his hypothesis on the dimensions of Spaceland as well as develops the ideas for the Fourth Dimension on his own. Although he is imprisoned for his thoughts and attempts to teach others, the square keeps his theories, not letting the views of society interfere with his work. It is interesting that he faces this fate when trying to educate the public about the truth of their world and beyond. On the whole, Flatland is more than just a short book with intriguing mathematical ideas. It is an opening experience to the search from the truth behind the world through the subject of dimensions. While mocking the English , the book also introduces readers an odd world of shapes and figures. Lastly, math is encouraged even though it may go against the grain of society. Any book that introduces readers to a new way of thinking is worth reading.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 21, 2013 6:16:42 PM PDT
paul says:
thank you
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