There is dramatic irony in Mae and Kalden's discussions of the Wise Men and the functioning of the Circle once it is revealed that Kalden is actually the Circle's founder Ty. For example, Mae asks Kalden whether he realizes that Ty said the Circle is democratic and access must be given to all, and Kalden says with a sign that "Whoever invented TruYou is some kind of evil genius" (404).
The Chinese Sculpture "Reaching Through for the Good of Humankind"
Mae and other Circle employees seem convinced that the only artistic interpretation of the Chinese sculpture is that the Circle is reaching out through technology to help the world. However, with the knowledge that the sculpture is Chinese and that his past artwork has been used to make "darkly sardonic" statements, it is clear to the reader that the sculpture likely named his sculpture "Reaching Through for the Good of Humankind" ironically and intends it to be a portrayal of a giant, transparent monstrosity reaching through a screen and thereby infiltrating people's lives.
It is clear from Mercer's espoused views and Eggers's writing that the sending of smiles to warring third-world countries is done in part tongue in cheek. Furthermore, when Mae's parents beg for the smiles to stop because they feel forced to reply to them and some individuals turn nasty if not replied to, which ironically shows the negative impact of sending a smile.
Secret Bathroom Meetings
As the transparency of Mae's life increases, she ironically has to hide more and more, both literally in the bathroom to have conversations with Kalden and Annie, and hiding her emotions from her viewers since she is forced to be "on" at all times.
Counting the Grains of Sand in the Sahara
This task is used idiomatically to refer to an unattainable task. That the Circle is attempting to complete it just for fun shows their casual yet scary power to wield science and find out the answer to any question, even those that don't need to be (or shouldn't be) asked.
Mae's Parents' Gift
Mae's parents' gift seems well-intentioned, but is actually something which she never will have the chance to use working at the Circle.
The Circle Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Circle is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.