The Circle

The Circle Summary and Analysis of Book 1 Part 3 (pp. 146-192)


When Mae returns to work on Monday, she finds she has many missed messages about parties at the Circle over the weekend, especially a barbecue for all new employees, and an immediate summons from Dan. He briefly chastises her for missing the event, then asks her to take over for Jared as the backstop for twelve new employees in Customer Experience answering their questions and taking on customer queries that are too difficult. The newbies come in and she works steadily, tackling both their customer queries and her own with only a brief respite for lunch. Jared tells her she needs to go to the clinic since she was supposed to go during her first week, so at the end of the workday she goes directly there.

Dr. Villalobos greets Mae at the clinic and they discuss the Circle’s comprehensive health plan which includes check-ups every two weeks for a preventative approach. She gives Mae a bracelet health monitor and asks whether she’d like the “full program” while preparing a smoothie. After Mae drinks the smoothie, Dr. Villalobos informs her that she has just ingested a sensor that will send all of her vital information to her wrist monitor and to the Cloud for full tracking of her moment-to-moment health including everything from number of daily steps to digestive efficiency. The appointment goes very well until Dr. Villalobos asks about Mae’s family history of illness, causing Mae to break down and tell the doctor about her father’s condition and the incident over the weekend. Dr. Villalobo asks Mae if she has considered getting her parents on the company’s insurance plan, urging her to ask Annie about it.

When Mae asks Annie about it, Annie quickly promises to get it done and four minutes later assures Mae that she has spoken to the necessary people and that her parents should be considered on the company’s plan immediately. Mae is stunned by the fact that her family will no longer be stretched thin under the weight of healthcare concerns, and Mae’s mother says over the phone that she has saved the lives of both her parents.

Mae wants to celebrate, so she decides to go to a circus act being performed on campus that night. The night is going fabulously until a performer runs at her unsteadily with his arms full of swords. A man pushes her out of the way just in time, and when he helps her back up she realizes it is Kalden. He takes her back to the lemon grove near the circus act and gives her a lemon flirtatiously, though nothing more happens between them that night.

In the morning, Mae tells Annie about this mysterious man and their encounter, and Annie makes fun of Mae's description that includes a youthful look but also gray hair. In her office, Mae searches the Circle’s directory for many spellings of the name Kalden, but nothing comes up. After days of thinking of him and searching the internet, Mae enlists Annie’s help. Annie becomes unsettled by the fact that he is not listed as working for the company and that Mae has no pictures of him. She asks Mae to keep her posted on the situation. Mae continues ignoring Francis and has the same kind of halo as when she first spent more time with him, though this sours as the week progresses with no sign of him.

That week’s Dream Friday is cancelled so that all staffers can watch a press conference regarding an investigation into whether the Circle constitutes a monopoly. Annie does not seem very phased by this development, though she hints at trouble for the Senator heading the investigation. She continues to press Mae to get information on Kalden in case he is some sort of agent.

At the end of the day, Dan calls Mae to his office again to question her about her social involvement at the Circle, especially on her PartiRank and online interaction. He transfers her over to Josiah and Denise from HR who encourage her to join a group about MS, women’s basketball, and kayaking, communicating to her that it is selfish for her to hold onto the information and experiences she has rather than sharing them online for those who could benefit. After this session, Mae feels awful. She decides that she wants to improve her PartiRank drastically that very night, and begins to Zing. She goes from 9,101 to under 3,000 by spending over 9 hours online.


At this point Mae is barely two weeks into her job, but is already being given responsibilities over others. On top of the fact that she is again chastised for missing optional on-campus events, her ability to have a life outside the Circle is rapidly diminishing. However, she is being praised and told she is valued all the while - as Annie says on her first day, she is climbing a ladder she wants to climb.

Mae's relationship with her parents, whom she recently lived with and thus depended upon, is turned on its head by the quick approval for them to be on the Circle's healthcare plan. As a plot point in a coming-of-age novel, this is a major step in her maturation. However, this setup will later turn darkly ironic when Mae's parents are forced to have SeeChange cameras monitoring every room of their house, increasing their distrust and displeasure with the Circle and Mae.

Dark foreshadowing is present in the press conference screened in lieu of a Dream Friday presentation, given that a higher-up like Annie does not seem worried by the news. Though Mae seems to remain blind to the situation until Kalden brings it up much later, the Circle quietly squashes any politician who stands in its way through the use of either its total access to information or its ability to fabricate, plant, and then use "evidence" to substantiate accusations. This is how the relationship between the Circle and the US government begins to spiral out of control.

Mae's interaction with Kalden in the lemon grove is erotic yet physically restrained. In her quick move from Francis to Kalden, Mae seems to seek out something in a relationship. The similarity of these encounters seems like déjà vu: both take place just away from the busy atmosphere of a party and involve fumbling flirtation while interacting with nature. However, Kalden is more mysterious and masculine and specifically notes that he had a good upbringing with parents who loved him.

This section begins to show Mae's reliance on technology, as she, like Annie after the series of unanswered texts, becomes increasingly angry with Kalden's lack of communication. She also scours the company database for him, but because she has no real name or photos of him, she grows angrier by his apparent ability to remain undetected. Like the Circle itself, Mae is prone to his whims and has provided him with all the information he might need, while he remains shrouded in alluring mystery.