English 91C; TA: B. Smith
February 9, 2013
The Progressive Identity Struggle of A. Square Within the Confines of Flatland:
In Edwin A. Abbott’s satirical novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, the story is told through the first-person point-of-view of A. Square, a member of the social class of gentlemen and professionals in a society of geometric figures, who guides us through some of the implications of two-dimensional life in Flatland. With A. Square being a middle class male, his sense of identity in Flatland is neither inferior nor too superior. His own sense of identity, as well as his perception of its other inhabitants, is heavily influenced by the nobility and the laws that govern Flatland. As the story progresses and his boundaries are opened up to higher dimensions, the text promotes that A. Square’s identity progressively shifts from being a mere follower under the rule of Flatland’s nobility to attempting to become a power-hungry leader of his own.
The higher powers of Flatland strongly influence A. Square’s perception of its lower classes, as well as its female figures. In Chapter 4, A. Square narrates, “To my readers in Spaceland, the condition of our Women may seem truly deplorable, and indeed it is. A Male of the lowest type of the Isosceles may look forward to some improvement of his angle, and to the ultimate elevation of the whole of his degraded caste; but no Woman can entertain such hopes Paddock 2 for her sex. ‘Once a Woman, always a Woman’ is a Decree of Nature; and the very Laws of Evolution seem suspended in her disfavor. Yet we can admire the wise Pre-arrangement which has ordained that, as they have no hopes, so they shall have no memory to recall, and no forethought to anticipate, the miseries and humiliations which are at once a necessity of their existence and the basis of the constitution of Flatland,” (pg. 56). In this passage, it is important to note the significance of A. Square’s opening statement describing the condition of their Women as “deplorable” to Spaceland outsiders, and personally agreeing that it is. This specific word choice briefly gives A. Square a voice of opinion towards this situation as he recognizes that Flatland’s treatment of women is disgraceful. However, A. Square still chooses to follow suit to the constitution of Flatland, allowing the higher nobility powers to define the identities of women and the lower classes for him. Therefore, A. Square’s first-person voice throughout the novel is directly biased by the influence of the nobility’s voice of power and its set law. Moreover, A. Square’s other colorful diction utilized within this passage seems to be harsh towards the perception of lower-class figures, but even harsher towards women. For example, his description of a lower-class male isosceles triangle being able to look forward to an “improvement” of his angle and the elevation of his “degraded caste” identifies the class as inferior, yet still hopeful. On the other hand, women are pre-determined to be completely Paddock 3 hopeless as a sex in Flatland, due to the “Laws of Evolution [being] suspended in [their] disfavour.” Men in Flatland society purposely identify women as unintelligent figures, “miseries,” and “humiliations” as a “necessity of their existence,” in order to maintain a superior sense of patriarchy in Flatland society, which is evidently seen through A. Square’s own treatment of his wife in the novel.
A. Square’s degradation of women, as well as his condescending behavior towards his wife, promotes his own superiority. In the context of the narrator and his wife’s attempt to decipher the shape of the stranger figure entering Flatland in Chapter 15, A. Square asserts, “But my Wife had not my experience, nor the coolness necessary to note these characteristics. With the usual hastiness and unreasoning jealousy of her Sex, she flew…