An epigraph is a short quotation at the beginning of a book or chapter intended to suggest its theme. Eggers includes an epigraph just before Book 1 of The Circle begins, reading:
"There wasn't any limit, no boundary at all, to the future. And it would be so a man wouldn't have room to store his happiness.
East of Eden"
East of Eden is a Nobel Prize-winning novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1952 and itself spanning from the 1860s to the early 1900s. There is an irony to the choice of this quote. While it speaks of the future and perhaps references the happiness of innovation, the events of East of Eden center around agriculture, family, and religious allusion. Like The Circle, many early critics found East of Eden heavy-handed in its religious message, but Steinbeck was effective in focusing on one theme and weaving it through an expansive novel, much like Eggers. The theme of religion itself is important to the Circle, and the two novels share a focus on family lineage and the definition of right and wrong deeds. By beginning with this quote, and segueing directly into Mae's evocation of "God" and "heaven," Eggers establishes a tone of religious hope for progress and future happiness that juxtaposes the stark technological dominance the Circle eventually comes to represent.