If we have a holomorphic function defined on the open unit disk , it is reasonable to ask under what conditions we can extend this function to the boundary of the unit disk. To do this, we can look at what the function looks like on each circle inside the disk centered at 0, each with some radius . This defines a new function on the circle , defined by , where . Then it would be expected that the values of the extension of onto the circle should be the limit of these functions, and so the question reduces to determining when converges, and in what sense, as , and how well defined is this limit. In particular, if the norms of these are well behaved, we have an answer:
Now, notice that this pointwise limit is a radial limit. That is, the limit being taken is along a straight line from the center of the disk to the boundary of the circle, and the statement above hence says that
for almost every . The natural question is, now with this boundary function defined, will we converge pointwise to this function by taking a limit in any other way? That is, suppose instead of following a straight line to the boundary, we follow an arbitrary curve converging to some point on the boundary. Will converge to ? (Note that the above theorem is just the special case of ). It turns out that the curve needs to be nontangential, meaning that the curve does not approach its target on the boundary in a way that makes it tangent to the boundary of the circle. In other words, the range of must be contained in a wedge emanating from the limit point. We summarize as follows:
Definition: Let be a continuous path such that . Define
That is, is the wedge inside the disk with angle : whose axis passes between and zero. We say that
converges nontangentially to , or that it is a nontangential limit, : if there exists such that is contained in and .
Fatou's theorem: Let . Then for almost all ,
for every nontangential limit converging to , where is defined as above.