How do the three Wise Men's visions of the Circle differ, and by the end of the novel which has had the greatest hand in shaping the company?
Though Ty conceived of the original idea behind TruYou and the Circle, Eggers writes that his motives were purely for the sake of ease. That the Circle has become a powerhouse with the ability to perhaps take the place of the government and further mandate its use is the doing of Stenton, who seems to have been motivated by the desire for money and power, and Bailey, clearly motivated by a strict moral bent. Furthermore, to the extent that Mae has aided in the Circle's Completion, she has been following the guidance of Bailey in doing so, multiplying his impact on the company's outcome.
Choose a moment in Mae's first week at the Circle. How does this moment foreshadow what is to come in the rest of the novel and in the development of the Circle as a company (and Mae's role within it).
At Mae's first Dream Friday, Eamon Bailey presents SeeChange. Though his most moving examples of the technology's utility have to do with reducing police violence and increasing accountability in countries undergoing revolution, at one point he calls for the cameras to show the audience video streams from his mother's house, causing "a roar of laughter" at the fact that she is walking down the hall in a towel. The SeeChange cameras present many problems of privacy throughout, and one that is especially important is that fact that Mae's own parents later feel their privacy invaded by the presence of these cameras in their home. The blurring of public and private information due to live video streaming, especially in the case of Eamon Bailey's mother since she seems unaware that the cameras exist in her home at all, are important to problems later in the novel.
Mae and other characters measure themselves through the use of many devices in the novel - client ratings, PartiRank, Conversion Rate, health sensors, and polls to name a few. Is this measurement a positive or negative thing? Does it bring people closer to or push them further from knowledge of themselves and/or others?
An example of measurement pushing people further from true connection is its importance to Mae and Francis's relationship. The first time they engage sexually, it begins because of their mutual fascination with the power they have over each others' heart rates as displayed on their health-tracking bracelets. However, it seems that for Mae this encounter is more about a fascination with her power over him and her power to increase these numbers, a major part of her job at the Circle. After the encounter, she feels uncomfortable and leaves quickly, making it clear that the experience did not bring them closer together. Furthermore, Francis brings measurement back into their sexual relationship later in the novel by asking her to rate him; Mae feels pressured to give him a 100, which does satisfy him, but again reveals the lack of true connection to one another and even the validity of measurement itself in a relationship setting.
Mae is romantically involved with three men in the novel - Francis, Kalden, and Mercer. What are the similarities and differences in these characters, and how do her interactions with them help understand what her character is looking for in others?
It seems from Mae's interactions with Francis, Kalden, Mercer, and even Annie that she thrives in a more subordinate role in a relationship. However, as we learn about her main motivation for going along with transparency in light of its negative impact on her mental state, Mae wants to be acknowledged as existing; she needs attention. This is how she ends up with Francis rather than Mercer or Kalden. Francis is someone who puts her in a subordinate role in the relationship but still showers her with attention and praises and supports her decisions in the company rather than looking at things critically. This is much like what Mae receives from the Circle itself - subordination but intense attention.
What does Annie, and Annie's relationship with Mae, signify in the novel?
Annie is someone that things come easily to, which Mae seems jealous of but resigned to, partially laying blame on genetics and socioeconomics. However, as Mae becomes increasingly important in the company, she sees a chance to overtake Annie. Annie's downfall is hastened by revelations about the very family Mae was jealous of, including problems directly related to privilege such as owning slaves in two countries. Thus, the rise and fall of Mae and Annie's relationship easily takes on a significance related to class in today's job market.
Why does Ty maintain a secret identity with Mae? Do you think it was effective?
Ty seems to have been gauging whether Mae will be the most effective tool for bringing down the Circle and at what time it will be most effective to do so. He reveals himself after the tragedies surrounding Mercer and Annie, perhaps thinking these events will have sufficiently enraged Mae against the Circle. However, it seems he has waited too long, as Mae has been taken under Eamon Bailey's wing and especially influenced by his vendetta against secrecy. Thus, Ty's secrecy itself is his eventual downfall, paralleling the squashing of all secrecy by the Circle once it has grown to its final size and power at the novel's end.
What is the importance of kayaking to the novel? Why do you think Eggers specifically chose kayaking as Mae's form of escape and release?
Kayaking is a special hobby for Mae because it requires a relationship with nature and is necessarily done solo, at least within one kayak. Eggers is able to effectively isolate Mae from society and the Circle during these kayaking trips, allowing her at one point even to specifically dwell on the positive impact of not knowing everything about the nature she is surrounded by. However, the Circle's own SeeChange cameras are what cause Mae to stop kayaking, symbolizing the company's triumph over all non-Circle aspects of her life.
What does the naming of various buildings at the Circle after famous time periods (Old West, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment) signify?
Proponents of the Circle, especially Eamon Bailey, seem to see the increasing impact of the Circle on daily life in the US as a sign that a "Second Enlightenment" is coming. This grandiose is manifested in a nostalgia for other great time periods, especially those of technological and philosophical advancement like the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, two of the most important buildings to the story.
What is the importance of Mae's father's condition in the novel?
What seems to upset Mae most about her father's condition is the lack of control he, and by proxy she, feels due to it. Through working at the Circle, Mae begins to rely on strict order and measurement, and even nebulous concepts like health and attraction are quantified whenever possible. Her father's condition also drives home her parents' age and the gap between them and the young, hip reformers of the Circle. These generation differences must be negotiated carefully with regard to technology, but as Mae is swept up quickly in the current of the Circle, this ends up impacting their relationship negatively.
The Circle is set in the near future and many of the technologies in the novel are either akin to those that exist through companies like Apple and Google or are quite possible to create with today's technology. Did this novel make you rethink your or your society's use of technology? If so, what might be done to better society's intersection with technology?
Innovation does not always lead to the greater good. Though many technologies in the novel have positive applications, such as reducing crime, abduction, and domestic violence, they violate important rights to privacy and individual agency. This is also important with regard to the mixing of private companies and the government, as what is most effective and appealing to a younger generation does not always trump the rules set out purposefully by the founding fathers to ensure fair and and appropriate representation.