Download The Circle Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary

David Eggers' The Circle is a 2013 dystopian novel, which follows a young and sharp young girl, Mae Holland, as she undertakes her first job out of college with the large technology company, The Circle. The Circle provides impressive amenities for its employees, but insists on high performance and an unwavering dedication to company ethos and a high degree of participation in social activities outside of work.

Mae feels grateful to have landed this job as a result of her friendship with a company executive, Annie, who was Mae's college roommate. At first, Mae performs very well at her job (and feels a heightened amount of pressure, owing to her personal friendship with Annie, who is responsible for Annie's position at The Circle).

When Mae visits her parents, who live a couple of hours away from company headquarters, she encounters her college boyfriend, Mercer, who openly distrusts the "Big Brother" culture promoted by The Circle. At first with good intentions, but later in open defiance of Mercer, Mae posts photos of his hand-made lamps on her social media account, with a view to bringing attention to his business. Mercer is irate, and avoids Mae. Eventually, Mercer dies running away from The Circle's surveillance cameras, allowing the public to witness his death.

In order to prove her allegiance to the company, Mae agrees to participate in the program called SeeChange, spearheaded by The Circle. This program involves Mae wearing a camera on her person, with the result that the public can see all details of her life (including interpersonal relationships, as well as what she eats and drinks). Mae has a liaison with the mysterious Kalden (an attractive but inscrutable company employee) as well as with her colleague, Francis.

The company is simultaneously piloting a program called PastPerfect, which allows the public to witness the family past of its participants. Annie agrees to participate--a decision which reveals the jarring nature extent of her family's transgressions (of which Annie herself was previously unaware).

The novel ends rather abruptly and ambiguously, with a revelation concerning Mae's love interest, Kalden; a defeated Mercer driving himself off a bridge in public view (afforded by The Circle's camera system), as well as Annie in a coma, distressed by her knowledge of her family secrets. At the novel's close, Mae seems to intend to continue working in service of The Circle.