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This World of Faltland

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[Teacher 2 March Flatland: an Allegory Edwin A. Abbot’s novella Flatland is a satirical allegory divisions in Victorian England. An allegory is a metaphorical story in which the characters and situations in the story stand for people and ideas in real life. The characters can be human beings in another world that represents our world, or even animals or other beings, such as the shapes in Flatland. Usually allegories teach a lesson or present a moral. The point of the allegory in the first part of Flatland is to satirize Victorian society. The three ideas satirized most fiercely are classism, sexism, and the treatment of the handicapped and mentally ill. In Flatland, class is determined by the number of angles a shape possesses. The shapes go to great lengths and even risk injury to determine one another’s shape by feel. The higher classes of shapes even learn how to determine shape by sight through the science of optics, which the lower class shapes are not permitted to learn. They are considered to be unintelligent, and therefore incapable of learning. Ironically, the triangles with the narrowest angles, and therefore the lowest class and least intelligent, are forced to become teachers, showing that they in fact are intelligent, despite what their society says. Determining class and maintaining class distinctions was of the utmost importance to the people of Flatland, just as it was to the people of Victorian England. Instead of using angles, Victorians had many ways to determine one’s rank in society, including accents, clothing, and titles (Mitchell 151). Even though in modern American society we claim to be above those distinctions, people still go out of their way to have the most expensive brand-name clothing, live in the most prestigious neighborhoods, and keep people seen as undesirable out of exclusive clubs. Things haven’t changed all that much since Edwin Abbot’s time. The way that women are viewed in Flatland is particularly bad. Women are seen to be so dangerous that they must utter a peace-cry at all times, and be confined in their rooms so they can’t turn around. They are not permitted to go out in public unescorted, and fashion dictates that they swing their back halves from side to side to be visible. This was a commentary on the way that women were treated at the time the story was written. Women are constantly referred to as the frail sex, just as they were referred to as the weaker sex in Victorian times. In Abbot’s time, women wore ridiculous contraptions that impeded their movement, like bustles, crinolines, and corsets, just to conform to fashion (Mitchell 140). Even now, women wear high heels that make it difficult to walk and run. The constraints placed on the women in Flatland are eerily similar to constraints placed on women in some parts of the world in modern times. The most shocking convention of Flatland’s society was the practice of fixing, ostracizing, or even killing irregulars, shapes that were born with imperfect angles. This corresponds to the horrific treatment of the disabled and mentally ill in Victorian society. People with disabilities were often imprisoned in the most horrible conditions (Mitchell 94). In this matter, at least, our society has made great strides, and is getting better all the time, although some people are still afraid of individuals who are different. People with mental illnesses and disabilities are still ostracized from society to some extent because people just don’t know how to respond to them. Edwin Abbot was truly a visionary, and he saw things in a way that made him ahead of his time. Our society is slowly changing as we see the problems Abbot pointed out in his tale. Works Cited Abbot, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. Web. Retrieved 2 March 2011. Mitchell, Sally. Daily Life in Victorian England. Westport, Ct: Greenwood press, 2009. Print.