The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

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Part 2, Chapters 18-19 Summary

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Many of the circus people are in attendance at Tara’s funeral. Her sister, Laine, explains the pain she is feeling from the loss. She and Tara were so often together that they were often looked upon as one.

To the side, Isobel stands under an umbrella that she shares with the contortionist. Tsukiko asks Isobel how Tara died. Isobel answers that Tara was hit by a train. This answer does not satisfy Tsukiko; she then asks, “How did she really die?”

Isobel is surprised by what Tsukiko is insinuating. She presses Tsukiko for an explanation of her thoughts. Tsukiko wants to know if Isobel ever suffered from any kind of accident or illness since joining the circus. Isobel thinks about this, then she answers that she has not. Tsukiko says that all of them are like fish living in a glass bowl. Someone is always watching them. Usually this has meant that they were all protected. But Tsukiko thinks that Tara’s death means that either the death was intentional or else the guardians, whoever they are, were not paying very close attention to what was happening. Either way, Tsukiko has a very bad feeling about Tara's death and what it means to the others. She tells Isobel that it is often difficult to see things objectively when one is too closely involved, such as they are with the circus. Then she suggests that maybe Tara was closer to the edge of things than they are, and possibly she saw things that most of the other circus people could not or would not see. For her objective observations, maybe Tara was purposefully killed.

As their conversation comes to an end, Tsukiko states that things are beginning to come apart. She is starting to see the cracks. Sooner or later things will break. Although Tsukiko does not explain her statements, they remind Isobel of something she had thought when Marco attempted to describe the challenge between him and Celia. He had said that the challenge was like a woman holding a scale. He and Celia, through their exposition of magic, would continue to load the scales until a winner was determined. Isobel had wondered what would happen if the scales broke under the weight of all the magic. Now Tsukiko is implying that this is beginning to happen.

In 1902, Bailey is still searching for Poppet at the circus. As he comes out of the fortuneteller’s tent, he happens upon a small gathering of people watching two young teens, a girl and a boy about Bailey’s age, putting several kittens through a series of acrobatic tricks. When the act is finished, the girl calls to Bailey. Bailey recognizes her as Poppet.

Bailey, Poppet, and Widget roam the circus grounds, explore several of the tents, and eat lots of the treats. Poppet and Widget share information with Bailey concerning their special gifts of seeing things no one else can see. Bailey has no trouble accepting that Poppet and Widget are different from anyone he has ever met.

When it is time to go, Bailey senses (though he does not fully understand his feelings) that something quite important inside of him has changed. Although he does not comprehend the transformation or where it might lead him, he feels he is more himself than he has ever been in his life—as if he has been given a new direction that is leading him to the place he was meant to be.

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Part 2, Chapter 20 Summary