This study guide will help you analyze the novel The Circle by Dave Eggers. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective. The quotes in this analysis are taken from the 2014 Penguin edition.
Presentation of the text
Title: The Circle (2013)
Author: Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers (b.1970) is an American author. He has written several novels, including his best-known work The Circle (2013) and its sequel The Every (2021). As well as his novels, he has written a best-selling memoir titled A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), which charts his experiences of bringing up his younger brother after both of his parents died of cancer.
The Circle is set in a dystopian but familiar future in which a single technology company is trying to control every aspect of human life on earth. In 2017, Netflix released a movie adaptation of the novel starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega.
Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:
One important symbol is the submersible built by a team of scientists for Tom Stenton. This machine can journey into the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean, where humans have never been before. The Circle pretends that the development of the submersible will have positive benefits for human knowledge and for the world, but really, as one of the developers puts it, “this thing’s built for one man and one man only: Tom Stenton” (p. 215); this symbolizes the capitalist aims of The Circle more broadly and how they are hidden behind a fake aim to improve the world.
The submersible also represents The Circle’s wish to know everything, to gain information and control over every part of the world. This is contrasted with Mae’s experiences of kayaking on San Francisco Bay:
There were leopard sharks in this part of the bay, and bat rays, and jellyfish, and the occasional harbor porpoise, but she could see none of them. They were hidden in the dark water, in their black parallel world, and knowing they were there, but not knowing where, or really anything else, felt, at that moment strangely right. (p. 83)