Concerning The Inhabitants Of Flatland

: Flatland

The greatest length or breadth of a full grown inhabitant of Flatland

may be estimated at about eleven of your inches. Twelve inches may be

regarded as a maximum.

Our Women are Straight Lines.

Our Soldiers and Lowest Class of Workmen are Triangles with two equal

sides, each about eleven inches long, and a base or third side so short

(often not exceeding half an inch) that they form at their
vertices a

very sharp and formidable angle. Indeed when their bases are of the

most degraded type (not more than the eighth part of an inch in size),

they can hardly be distinguished from Straight lines or Women; so

extremely pointed are their vertices. With us, as with you, these

Triangles are distinguished from others by being called Isosceles; and

by this name I shall refer to them in the following pages.

Our Middle Class consists of Equilateral or Equal-Sided Triangles.

Our Professional Men and Gentlemen are Squares (to which class I myself

belong) and Five-Sided Figures or Pentagons.

Next above these come the Nobility, of whom there are several degrees,

beginning at Six-Sided Figures, or Hexagons, and from thence rising in

the number of their sides till they receive the honourable title of

Polygonal, or many-Sided. Finally when the number of the sides becomes

so numerous, and the sides themselves so small, that the figure cannot

be distinguished from a circle, he is included in the Circular or

Priestly order; and this is the highest class of all.

It is a Law of Nature with us that a male child shall have one more

side than his father, so that each generation shall rise (as a rule)

one step in the scale of development and nobility. Thus the son of a

Square is a Pentagon; the son of a Pentagon, a Hexagon; and so on.

But this rule applies not always to the Tradesman, and still less often

to the Soldiers, and to the Workmen; who indeed can hardly be said to

deserve the name of human Figures, since they have not all their sides

equal. With them therefore the Law of Nature does not hold; and the

son of an Isosceles (i.e. a Triangle with two sides equal) remains

Isosceles still. Nevertheless, all hope is not such out, even from the

Isosceles, that his posterity may ultimately rise above his degraded

condition. For, after a long series of military successes, or diligent

and skillful labours, it is generally found that the more intelligent

among the Artisan and Soldier classes manifest a slight increase of

their third side or base, and a shrinkage of the two other sides.

Intermarriages (arranged by the Priests) between the sons and daughters

of these more intellectual members of the lower classes generally

result in an offspring approximating still more to the type of the

Equal-Sided Triangle.

Rarely--in proportion to the vast numbers of Isosceles births--is a

genuine and certifiable Equal-Sided Triangle produced from Isosceles

parents (footnote 1). Such a birth requires, as its antecedents, not

only a series of carefully arranged intermarriages, but also a

long-continued exercise of frugality and self-control on the part of

the would-be ancestors of the coming Equilateral, and a patient,

systematic, and continuous development of the Isosceles intellect

through many generations.

The birth of a True Equilateral Triangle from Isosceles parents is the

subject of rejoicing in our country for many furlongs round. After a

strict examination conducted by the Sanitary and Social Board, the

infant, if certified as Regular, is with solemn ceremonial admitted

into the class of Equilaterals. He is then immediately taken from his

proud yet sorrowing parents and adopted by some childless Equilateral,

who is bound by oath never to permit the child henceforth to enter his

former home or so much as to look upon his relations again, for fear

lest the freshly developed organism may, by force of unconscious

imitation, fall back again into his hereditary level.

The occasional emergence of an Equilateral from the ranks of his

serf-born ancestors is welcomed, not only by the poor serfs themselves,

as a gleam of light and hope shed upon the monotonous squalor of their

existence, but also by the Aristocracy at large; for all the higher

classes are well aware that these rare phenomena, while they do little

or nothing to vulgarize their own privileges, serve as almost useful

barrier against revolution from below.

Had the acute-angled rabble been all, without exception, absolutely

destitute of hope and of ambition, they might have found leaders in

some of their many seditious outbreaks, so able as to render their

superior numbers and strength too much even for the wisdom of the

Circles. But a wise ordinance of Nature has decreed that in proportion

as the working-classes increase in intelligence, knowledge, and all

virtue, in that same proportion their acute angle (which makes them

physically terrible) shall increase also and approximate to their

comparatively harmless angle of the Equilateral Triangle. Thus, in the

most brutal and formidable off the soldier class--creatures almost on a

level with women in their lack of intelligence--it is found that, as

they wax in the mental ability necessary to employ their tremendous

penetrating power to advantage, so do they wane in the power of

penetration itself.

How admirable is the Law of Compensation! And how perfect a proof of

the natural fitness and, I may almost say, the divine origin of the

aristocratic constitution of the States of Flatland! By a judicious

use of this Law of Nature, the Polygons and Circles are almost always

able to stifle sedition in its very cradle, taking advantage of the

irrepressible and boundless hopefulness of the human mind. Art also

comes to the aid of Law and Order. It is generally found possible--by

a little artificial compression or expansion on the part of the State

physicians--to make some of the more intelligent leaders of a rebellion

perfectly Regular, and to admit them at once into the privileged

classes; a much larger number, who are still below the standard,

allured by the prospect of being ultimately ennobled, are induced to

enter the State Hospitals, where they are kept in honourable

confinement for life; one or two alone of the most obstinate, foolish,

and hopelessly irregular are led to execution.

Then the wretched rabble of the Isosceles, planless and leaderless, are

either transfixed without resistance by the small body of their

brethren whom the Chief Circle keeps in pay for emergencies of this

kind; or else more often, by means of jealousies and suspicious

skillfully fomented among them by the Circular party, they are stirred

to mutual warfare, and perish by one another's angles. No less than

one hundred and twenty rebellions are recorded in our annals, besides

minor outbreaks numbered at two hundred and thirty-five; and they have

all ended thus.

Footnote 1. "What need of a certificate?" a Spaceland critic may ask:

"Is not the procreation of a Square Son a certificate from Nature

herself, proving the Equal-sidedness of the Father?" I reply that no

Lady of any position will mary an uncertified Triangle. Square

offspring has sometimes resulted from a slightly Irregular Triangle;

but in almost every such case the Irregularity of the first generation

is visited on the third; which either fails to attain the Pentagonal

rank, or relapses to the Triangular.