The main characters in Circe are Circe, Telemachus, Odysseus.
- Circe, a minor goddess, uncovers her true power when she discovers witchcraft. Bolstered by her abilities as a witch, she punishes the human men who seek to hurt her, protects her mortal son from Athena, and finds the courage to stand up to powerful gods and Titans.
- Odysseus meets Circe on his journey home to Ithaca. They have a brief affair, which results in the birth of a son, Telegonus.
- Telemachus, Odysseus's first son, meets Circe after the death of his father. He rejects his father's values and lifestyle, and he and Circe develop a romantic relationship.
Last Updated on October 16, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1966
The characters in Circe are drawn from Greek mythology. Though Miller takes creative liberties with specific characters’ traits and plot points, her story is authentic to the greater oeuvre of classical works.
Circe, whose name is derived from the word "hawk," is the first-person protagonist of the novel, and the narrative follows a linear trajectory through her life. She is the daughter of Helios, the god of the sun and the mightiest of the Titans, and Perse, a weak but beautiful water nymph. When young, Circe struggles to define herself within the context of her father’s god-laden, ego-driven, appearance-oriented palace. When mature, Circe works to exercise free will when more powerful gods, and more physically powerful mortal men, exert authority over her life.
The turning point in Circe’s life is when she discovers her ability to use pharmaka, or witchcraft. Though she lacks her father’s godly might and her mother’s beauty, pharmaka allows Circe to exert control over her surroundings for the first time. She is no longer defined by her role as Helios’s weak and ugly daughter; instead, she becomes the witch queen of Aiaia, the deserted island that she is exiled to after the other gods discover her powers. Her abilities allow her to defend herself from both gods and mortals, warding her island against divine interference and turning predatory men into pigs. She summons a lioness as her familiar and signature companion, proving to the world that she, too, has teeth and claws.
Circe’s story intersects with those of many other famous figures from Greek mythology. However, rather than centering these stories, the novel filters them through Circe’s perspective. Each encounter teaches Circe a lesson about life and helps her discover new information about herself. Scylla, the nymph that Circe turns into a sea monster, teaches Circe the dangers of irresponsibly used power; Daedalus, the famed inventor, becomes Circe’s first mortal friend. His death represents Circe’s first real experience with mortality; Circe’s sister, Pasiphaë, teaches Circe how truly toxic Helios’s court was and how unfairly Circe has judged the other nymphs; Medea shows Circe the power of free will, and her bravery inspires both Circe and Penelope.
Known as the bewitching queen of Aiaia, Circe is most thoroughly characterized in book X of The Odyssey by Homer.
Helios is a Titan and the personification of the sun—many cannot even look at him because of his brightness. Though he has many extramarital affairs, he is married to Perse, a water nymph, who bears him four children: Circe, Pasiphaë, Perses, and Aeetes.
In Circe, Helios is portrayed as an ego-driven tyrant who lords over his palace and prized possessions. He is cold and conniving, more likely to pursue his own power and political gain than to consider the needs of his family or fellow Titans.
Throughout the novel, Helios acts as an antagonist, coming to symbolize the patriarchal world view that governs the ancient Greek world.
Pasiphaë is Circe’s younger sister. She is beautiful and cruel, often teasing Circe about her looks and her voice. Pasiphaë and her brother Perses are inseparable in their...
(The entire section contains 1966 words.)
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