by Madeline Miller

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What has most shaped Circe's identity in the book?

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While Circe is the daughter of the powerful sun god Helios, she grows up suffering from being cast aside, scorned, and taunted by the other gods (including her cruel nymph mother, Perse) for her human-sounding voice, mild personality, and less-than-perfect features. This cruelty and rejection certainly shapes her identity and ultimately becomes a source of power for Circe.

In the centuries that she lives among the other immortals, Circe becomes all too familiar with the backstabbing, pettiness, and cruelty of her kin. For many human lifetimes, Circe desperately wishes for the approval, or even acknowledgment, of her emotionally distant father. When she turns to a mortal fisherman, Glaucus, for love, she is ultimately taken advantage of and rejected in favor of a more glamorous goddess, the sea nymph Scylla. The gods' scorning of Circe culminates in her being banished to the Island of Aiaia after she confesses to turning Scylla into a horrible sea monster and after her brother reveals that she and her siblings are sorcerers.

There, the centuries of cruelty and rejection experienced by Circe are finally channeled into power. On this lonely, isolated island, Circe becomes a formidable witch and a woman of formidable inner strength and courage, defying the gods and mortal men alike.

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