How the Three-Part Structure of ‘The Circle’ Underscores Eggers’s Message
Dave Egger’s novel The Circle follows a young woman named Mae who joins an innovative company called the Circle. The Circle is the forefront of all things technological, including the creation of one system for all types of social media and personal identification. The Circle is seen as the beginnings of a utopia, but it is not at all what it seems to be. The Circle is split into 3 smaller books, and through each book, the reader sees more and more that the Circle is enthralling us to believe that its adherents are the future, but in reality, they are trying to take over everything. Eggers uses the separation of The Circle into other books to show the evolution of technology and social media and how it consumes modern life.
The first section of the novel, called Book I, is about Mae’s transition into her new life at the Circle. She is given all of the newest technology, and has access to the Circle’s company social media. She is given the task of Customer Experience, which is replying to consumers’ questions and need. In addition to this, she is told to uphold her visibility on social media, participating as much as she possibly can. The Circle was first founded with something called TruYou, where “all of every user’s needs and tools, into one pot and invented TruYou – one account, one identity, one password, one payment system, per person” (Eggers 21). The Circle began with this one idea to combine everything into one account. In the real world, this would be considered a amazing convenience to not have to set up multiple accounts. The Circle is meant to show what society can do with advanced technology, but later in the novel, it also shows the implications of that. Not long into her job at the Circle, she listens to her first speech about new tech coming to the Circle, and she hears about SeeChange. SeeChange is a new, small camera that can be put anywhere and no longer be noticeable. One of the presidents of the company, Eamon Bailey, says that “We will become all-seeing, all-knowing’” (70-71). All of technology is based on trying to receive all knowledge possible, and that is what the Circle does. It appears wonderful to know all, but later in the novel, it is obvious that knowing all is not right.
In addition to the new technology at the Circle, the company’s social media is a big part of this novel. There is a social media network called the Inner Circle, used only by those who work for the Circle, and in this network, all of the people are ranked by their participation in their social media, called the PartiRank. Most of the members of the Circle use this ranking as a competition of popularity, and soon, Mae joins in, and spends a night working on her ranking: “[i]t was six o’clock. She had plenty of time to improve. . .In an hour, her PartiRank rose to 7,288. . .By 10:16 her rank was 5,342. . .She was determined to break 3,000. And she did so, though it was 3:19 am” (191-192). Mae literally spends 9 hours on her phone, ‘smiling’ and ‘frowning’ and commenting and posting, until her PartiRank goes up. She is addicted to the numbers and the ranking, like most of the other Circle members, and especially, the approval of being so high ranked. Social media is an ever-consuming competition, but it is also just ever-consuming in general. When Mae visits her family, she is greeted by her ex-boyfriend Mercer, who does not like the path the Circle and its’ employees are taking. Mercers says that to Mae that “[you] willingly tie yourself to these leashes. And you willingly become utterly socially autistic. You no longer pick up on human communication clues. You’re at a table with three humans, all of whom are looking at you and trying to talk to you, and you’re staring at a screen, searching for strangers in Dubai” (262). Mercer, though he is meant to be an antagonist, is right. Mae has spent so much time on the advanced technology and social media she is given, and she only sees her family once every couple of weeks, now in the fear that she will no longer be posting, and will no longer be at a high PartiRank. The world is so hellbent on ‘smiling’ and ‘frowning’ and posting and commenting that no one can enjoy what is happening away from the screen, and in Book II, it begins to become more of an issue.
In the beginning of Book II, Mae decides to go transparent, letting everyone in the entire world see every aspect of her life. In fact, many other people have gone transparent, including most of the United States government officials and many officials in other countries. The presence of social media has an even larger impact on politics in the novel than it does in the real world, and even is used to sway the political environment in a country: “[w]e’ve sent over 180 million frowns from the U.S. alone, and you can bet this has an effect on the regime” (347). Now, social media is becoming a huge aspect to government. People disliking something turns into social injustice, which in turn ruins an entire government. People have a say, which can be favorable, but when social media is involved, too many people, like those who do not live in the country, get to spread their opinions. Transparency is a large aspect of the world Eggers created in The Circle, and for some people, like Mae’s parents, it is not favorable. Because of Mae’s father’s battle with health issues, the Circle installed cameras in their homes to track his health as part of their health insurance plan. Mae’s parents do not like this, and after a couple of months, they remove the cameras with the help of Mercer. In a letter Mercer writes to Mae, he says that “I helped them cover some of the cameras. I even bought the fabric. I was happy to do it. They don’t want to be smiled upon, or frowned upon, or zinged. They want to be alone. And not watched. Surveillance shouldn’t be the tradeoff for any goddamn service we get” (370). Mercer knows exactly what is going on. He knows that what the Circle is doing is not right, but no one else except for him and Mae’s parents seem to notice. Everyone in the world loves what the Circle is doing, and so they continue.
Here also, Mae goes into a meeting with the founders of the Circle, and there, they talk about a new system called Demoxie. Demoxie is meant to be a new way to vote in political elections, and since the Circle already has all of the information that registering to vote requires and more, they want to do it through the Circle, and require all people who are eligible to vote to have a Circle account. Their support to this idea is that “[i]f we can know the will of the people at any time, without filter, without misinterpretation or bastardization, wouldn’t it eliminate much of Washington?” (395). The Circle now suggests completely taking over the government with Demoxie, the new way to vote. They want to make having a Circle account mandatory, and they are attempting to be the owner of everything. The Circle intends to make life more and more convenient, so people look past the obvious attempt at controlling the world and the minds of people. The Circle therefore is enabled to continue taking over the world, with no outside force even trying to halt it. In the novel, there is an effective analogy using a deep-sea shark and its neighbors, an octopus and seahorses. One of the founders of the Circle had a submarine built, and captured the sea creatures for separate viewing in the Circle. Weeks later, he decides to assimilate all of the creatures together, and the result was this: “the shark circled and stabbed until he had devoured the thousand babies, and the seaweed, and the coral, and the anemones. It ate everything, and deposited the remains quickly, carpeting the empty aquarium in a low film of white ash” (481-482). The shark in this sense is meant to be the Circle, consuming all of the world until it devoured everything. The horror of the shark eating all of the innocent seahorses and plants is meant to induce horror in the reader, and hope that Mae picks up on this. She doesn’t. Even when not long after the shark incident, she meets with Kalden, who actually is Ty, the founder of the company. He tells her about how the company has turned into his nightmare, and as the face of the company and its innovations, she needs to do something about it.
In Book III, the narrative starts with the assumption that Mae did heed Ty’s warning. Mae seems shaken up by the entire ordeal: “[t]o have gotten so close to apocalypse – it rattled her still. Yes, Mae had averted it” (495). In fact, she did not listen to Ty. She reported Ty to the other founders, and they stopped the revolution against the Circle from happening. This final book is not very long, but the reader learns that Ty is basically demoted from his role as a founder, and that Annie, Mae’s best friend, is in a coma. Mae finds she is annoyed by the fact that she does not know Annie’s thoughts, and she hates that she does not know. In one of the novel’s final paragraphs, the Circle’s goal is almost finished: “replaced by a new and glorious openness, a world of perpetual light. Completion was imminent, and it would bring peace, and it would bring unity” (497). This is the thought of almost everyone in the entire world. The world is at the best it can be according to Circle, but it is at an extreme cost, where every move a person makes is now accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, no one is aware of this.
Splitting The Circle into 3 smaller books, Dave Eggers shows that technology and social media consumes modern life. The more advanced technology gets, the more people want more and more. The more people replace social interaction with social media, the more sensitive and consumed by the likes and approval. The Circle shows the world that we know now as an insane, all-consuming dystopia, and it is the job of the people in the modern world to keep this dystopia from existing.
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Dave Egger’s novel The Circle follows a young woman named Mae who joins an innovative company called the Circle. The Circle is the forefront of all things technological, including the […]