Circle of Friends Themes
Binchy juxtaposes the values of friendship, love, family, small town life, and education amidst the controversial concerns of premarital sex and abortion in a Catholic community. The friendship between Benny and Eve is a strong, loyal bond. The two are inseparable and would do anything to help the other. The friendship the two have with Nan is not the same. Nan looks out for herself before she considers anyone else's feelings. Nan betrays Benny when she seduces Jack and steals him away from Benny.
Benny is searching for love throughout the novel. Her parents suggest that she marry Sean Walsh, but she refuses the marriage because she does not love him. Benny falls in love with Jack, but he betrays her with his affair with Nan. Jack's parents are in love, but his mother feels she must always portray perfection to keep her husband's interest. Eve also searches for love and finds it in Aidan, a loud, joking, kindhearted boy.
Jack is intrigued by the small and comfortable village of Knockglen. He always tells Benny not to "knock Knockglen." Benny and Eve's other Dublin friends are also intrigued by the village. For their second party, they are excited to spend the weekend in the quiet town. By this point in the novel, Benny has stopped knocking Knockglen; she has developed a pride in the small village.
Benny's parents do not fully believe a college education is necessary for her. They are proud to have a daughter going to the university, but they really want her to marry a nice man who will give her a comfortable living. Her parents believe Sean Walsh is a possible husband for Benny. Benny, however, detests Sean practically from the time he joins her father's business because of his shifty looks and scheming attitudes. Benny wants a college education. She does not want her life to consist of only a husband and family.