Circle, written by Dave Eggers, mocks the norms and parts of
culture that have emerged out of the time period of internet and social networks.
One example is he attacks the culture of these networks, by showing how less and
less interactions between people are happening in person, but instead online,
in a network where not a lot of these people have met in real life. During the writing
of this novel, social media was reinventing itself and popularity rose. As a result,
the book shows the darker side of online life and the subconscious effects on people.
It has also become much easier to acquire thousands of followers or friends online.
By doing this, these networks have persuaded people to appreciate their online
connections with other people more than their friendships and connections with
people in reality. The main character Mae begins to get closer connections with
her online followers, as she has gained millions, than with her best friend
Annie. Mae actually hasn’t come face to face with any of her online viewers, but
her connections with her followers have become more important to her than her
relationship with Annie. The two eventually start to separate and become less
friendly. So as a result of social media and other influential networks, this technology
has made humans rethink the way they see relationships, whether they are real
or not. “But the tools you guys create actually manufacture unnaturally extreme
social needs. No one needs the level of contact you’re purveying. It improves
nothing. It’s not nourishing.”(Eggers, 134). Eggers explains how people are now
depending on these new networks. The
Circle also explains the lack of personal connections through the romantic
relationship of Mae and Francis. Following a date with Francis, Mae has already
felt feelings of love for him. As the book goes continues, Mae finds herself stunned
she didn’t learn much as much about Francis as she would have liked. “Again Mae
had the feeling of being clubbed with information that complicated her feelings
about Francis, who seemed so sweet one moment and so strange and unaltered the
next.” (Eggers, 117). Her ability to gain information about him was limited, leaving
her question her feelings for him. The
author implies that this is because of the network has forced Mae not to become
too deeply connected with people she creates relationships with. Finally, the internet
has made people feel a demand for observation, and provided them with
communication for 24 hours a day. The author shows that Mae and her friends
cannot deal with being alone by explaining how Mae feels a sadness in herself
when not connected with others. Like this, Eggers uses dark humor and
exaggeration to bring awareness to these difficulties.
Solitude- This motif connects with the
surveillance one as it is shows the other side to the story. At certain points
in the book, the programs executives inform Mae Holland that having solitude
and privacy is harmful and hazardous. “Secrets are lies, sharing is caring,
privacy is theft” (Eggers, 308) is one of Eamon Bailey’s sayings. This connects
observation and the idea of totalitarianism to the fact that privacy is vital
to humans. Having moments to oneself is essential because they can be
significant to an individual. Humans without privacy, as shown through the
character Mae, can become uncertain and uncomfortable with themselves. The
company claims that having privacy is a very significant right. For example,
Mae kayaking by herself gives her a chance to be separated from the world, and
relaxes her by bringing her belief in herself. “She guessed at it all, what
might live, moving purposefully or drifting aimlessly, under the deep water
around her, but she didn’t think too much about any of it. It was enough to be
aware of the million permutations possible around her, and take comfort in
knowing she would not, and really could not, know much at all.” (Eggers, 274).
The Circle hears about Mae’s joy for kayaking and understand the “dangers” that
it could bring. They then force her to share through the network about her
kayaking trips, which ruins the solitude of her alone time. Following these
events, Mae is less confident after she is put under surveillance. Since she has
no time to herself, she feels that she is relying on others for comfort and acceptance,
resulting in her being more deprived. The author also claims people can be a
part of healthy relationships when they are able to be away from each other.
One example is when Annie willingly publicizes her families past history for a
program she joined. She later found out the program had given out knowledge of
her parents seeing a man drown and not saving him. Following this, Annie can not
view her parents the way she once did, causing to her think about them less, to
a point where she doesn’t wonder about them. “It’s the worst story,” Annie
said. “His parents were such fuckups. I think there were like four or five kids
in the family, and Francis was youngest or second-youngest, and anyway the dad
was in jail, and the mom was on drugs, so the kids were sent all over the place.
I think one went to his aunt and uncle, and his two sisters were sent to some
foster home, and then they were abducted from there. I guess there was some
doubt if they were, you know, given or sold to the murderers.” (Eggers, 58). Here,
Annie explains how this knowledge of Francis changed the way she thought about
him, even though she didn’t want to think of him differently. Annie now
understands that it is hard to notice the reputation of people you know once
you have learned something about them you wish you didn’t. Only privacy is what
can keep this from happening to someone like Annie because of the things that
were revealed. The Circle believes that having all information about someone is
unnecessary, but cannot be alone with their thoughts too much, which is a
violation of people like Mae and Annie’s privacy.
Totalitarianism- The Circle portrays an autocratic/fascist society from the view of
people being led into its authority. Since the book is written in Mae’s point
of view, it is hard to understand what the Circle is going to do to become a
world power, because she is just one of the citizens of the totalitarian
program, so she is deemed irrelevant. By using Mae, the author explains the
important parts of a totalitarian program. Eggers writes about the concepts of
encouragement, peer-pressure, and conformity. The book’s perception of
conformity is that it must happen over a long period of time. For example, Mae
is steadily drawn toward the beliefs of the program. At the beginning, Mae is
excited to understand the simple beliefs of the Circle, but hesitant about the
more totalitarian concepts. “Quickly, as they walked toward the water, she
scrolled through the most popular recent comments. There seemed to be one
particular zing with heat, something about how all this could or would lead to
totalitarianism.” (Eggers, 397). This explains the fact that people letting go the
company’s attempts to form a fascist type society, results in them getting closer
to their hopes. The employees ignore these attempts because they aren’t seen as
immediate threats, but once they become more unacceptable, it is too late.
Throughout the book, Mae’s advisors and coworkers manipulate her so she does
not hang out with her family as much, but is more involved on the network with
her media, and that her priority is the Circle. Mae gains knowledge of the fact
that the company want to insert devices into humans to inspect people’s movement.
She does not hesitate because it was for children to be safer from human traffickers.
Once she learns that they have planned to monitor all people to attempt to command
them, Mae does not change her opinion on them. While the organization for the dictator-like
program is happening, Mae realizes there’s no turning back because of how involved
she now is in the organization. “He genuinely believes that the answers to every
life question can be found among other people. He truly believes that openness,
that complete and uninterrupted access among all humans will help the world.
That this is what the world’s been waiting for, the moment when every soul is
connected. (Eggers, 488) Here, the solution to a totalitarian society is explained.
Having humans connected is when the idea of being a totalitarian society becomes
complete. If Mae knew of the Circle’s intentions since the beginning, she probably
would not have stayed with them. At this point, she has conformed to the policies
of the Circle.
Surveillance is also a recurring motif of The
Circle. During the book, The Circle explains how certain programs have
resulted in the majority of technology and people being put under constant
observation. ” If things continue this way, there will be two societies—or at
least I hope there will be two—the one you’re helping create, and an alternative
to it. You and your ilk will live, willingly, joyfully, under constant
surveillance, watching each other, always commenting on each other, voting and
liking and disliking each other, smiling and frowning, and otherwise doing
nothing much else.” (Eggers, 371). This shows the consequences of what could happen
is the violation of privacy continues. While that is happening, the Circle’s
important people like Eamon Bailey, encourage the idea of surveillance and that
it is beneficial to society and provides insight. However, Bailey’s opinion on
surveillance is that if you are truthful in your identity, then there is
nothing to be afraid of. The Circle shows how private observation is violating
independence and rights for people. It also portrays how constant observation
ruins human communication as people become more aware of what they are saying.
Surveillance causes people to act to do things they aren’t used to rather than
living without judgement. “Mae drank it down. It was viscous and cold. “Okay,
you just ingested the sensor that will connect to your wrist monitor. It was in
that glass.” The doctor punched Mae’s shoulder playfully.”(Eggers, 157). Eggers
implies that the importance of real-life interaction is that it is impulsive
and unplanned and that this is lost when they act in ways to satisfy those
watching them. One example is how Mae becomes less connected with her long-time
friend Annie. The relationship between them becomes weak and detached, since
Mae’s followers have become more of a priority for her. Not only does this
constant surveillance change behavior, it restricts freedom as well. By
enhancing the elements of observation, The Circle makes its consumers go back
to the past ways of living a boring and dull life. Mae’s an example of this. Once
she becomes more consumed by her followers, she starts to be addicted to them.
When she isn’t connected with them, it causes her stress and other negative
feelings because The Circle has influenced her into being a part of their
dishonorable program. This results in her losing her independence and freedom.
This is scary for Mae because she thinks she doesn’t realize that the Circle is
influencing her into acting this way. The Circle never defines why they use the
power of surveillance but Eggers implies that they want to abuse their power to
become an organization that can watch anyone in the world.
2) Consider the significance of these
leitmotifs and what central themes or messages they illuminate.
Internet- The significance of this motif
is to let people reading know about the many problems with these new networks and
young technology. Media creates a habit in people that makes them feel like attention
is a necessity. With these networks giving people access to friends and followers
around the world, it feeds that need and makes it easier for people to interact
with other whenever they want. Eggers wants to make sure people are aware of the
damage these companies who run the internet are causing, and wants to have a solution
for these problems.
Solitude- The significance of this motif
is to show the importance of being able to be alone without having someone or something
observing you. It also emphasizes the experience gained from being isolated sometimes
and how one can become more responsible with themselves as a result. One of the
messages this portrays is that privacy should always be cherished because some of
the more creative and responsible features of a person come from when they have
their own privacy. While privacy is important, it should not be in excess, or it
will end up causing someone to feel isolated.
Totalitarianism- The significance of this
motif is to show the policies and foundation of an ideal totalitarian society and
what about it specifically should be avoided. The Circle explains these by using a network. The employees are introduced
to the ideas of the company gradually, so they become more tolerable of the policies
until they are too involved to turn back. The message in this motif is no matter
what rights or intelligence one has, this type of society is dangerous and harmful
to everyone but the ones who control it. Totalitarianism trues to pull people in
with ideas that seem normal but are actually inhumane.
Observation/Surveillance- The significance
of this motif is to explain the effects of essentially spying and monitoring people’s
actions. The book explains the ways that observation of citizens ruins the relationships
and connections people have with each other. It makes people act differently than
how they normally would, resulting in a dishonest society. The message here is that
it may seem harmless to pay attention to the actions of people, but if abused, it
will end up in lying and people who are not trustworthy. Society can not fall in
love with the idea of a perfect society, so must get rid of unnecessary actions