Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Page Count: 491 pages
Genre: Fiction, Futuristic
Tone: Thought-Provoking, Witty, Quick
When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
1. What messages (if any) did it seem like Eggers was trying to get across? How successful was he? [too subtle, not subtle enough?]
2. What aspects of Mae’s life at the Circle seemed creepy or rubbed you the wrong way? What aspects of Mae’s life at the Circle did you really like?
3. What are people gaining by committing themselves to participating in all of the services the Circle has to offer? What are people losing?
4. Why do you think so many people are choosing to become a part of the Circle? What is so attractive about social media?
5. How do you think Mae would have been treated differently at the Circle if she wasn’t Annie’s friend? Would there even be a difference?
6. When Mae walks onto the campus she sees stones decorating with the following words: Dream; Participate; Find Community; Innovate; Imagine; Breathe. Why these words? How do they compare to the new phrases at the end of the book? (Secrets are Lies, Sharing is caring Privacy is theft)
7. Ty explains how the company had changed from its original start. Has its core values changed from when Mae started to the end of the book?
8. Bailey uses the phrase “All that happens must be known” when he is talking about the SeeChange video project and holding people accountable for their actions. This is a strong statement. In what ways do you agree or disagree with this phrase?
9. Mercer talks about how now that everyone is on social media, “there’s this new neediness.” Did you pick up on that neediness? What does he mean? Why do you think that neediness developed?
10. When Francis videos him and Mae being intimate, he says that that moment was his too and uses that part-ownership as permission to have recorded the moment. Is he implying that people can own events and moments in time? Can they? How does this connect with the direction the Circle is going and what it stands for?
11. Why is Mae so offended that Francis asks for a score on his sexual performance?
12. Do you think Annie always bought into the direction the Circle was heading, or was it just the ancestry project that caused her to see the negative consequences of such a society?
13. Even though there was a lot of negative feedback to the ancestry project and the video of her parents not calling for help when the homeless man fell into the water, there was a lot of support for Annie as well. Why do you think Annie still crumbled?
14. Towards the end at the idea forum, one of the presenters had a malfunction where an alarm went off too loud. Stenton had a big reaction to this, described as being barely able to control his rage, and saying “Turn it off or we walk out of here.” Why did he have such a strong reaction to something that was too loud?
15. Mae makes a lot of mentions to feeling a tear inside of her. Where does this come from? How does she try to fix it? At the end she decides the tear is not knowing (195)- not knowing who would love her and for how long and not knowing who people are. Do you think that’s true?
16. How has Mae changed from the beginning of the book to the end? How hasn’t she changed?
17. Did you think Mae was a fully fleshed out character? Was her naivety believable, or was it just a mechanism to move the story along?
18. As the reader, were there moments where you ever felt manipulated?
19. The book has no chapters, and is just broken up into three parts. How do you think this added to the story? Why do you think this was done?
20. Eggers has said that he hardly did any research when writing this book. How do you think this helped and/or hindered the story?
21. Mae’s friendship with Annie changed from the beginning of the book to the end. In what ways did it change? Why did it change so drastically?
22. Mae gets really mad at Frances when he volunteers her for the LuvLuv dating demonstration. Why did she have such a negative reaction if she willingly put up all of that information about herself?
23. Who did you think Kalden was?
24. Why was Kalden attracted to Mae? Why do you think Mae trusted Kalden so much?
25. Why does Mae have such a negative strong reaction to Mercer? Why was she so persistent in trying to convince him the value of the Circle?
26. One of the times when Mae went kayaking she met a couple in their early fifties, has a drink with them, and then left. What was their purpose in the story?
27. What would closing the Circle mean?
28. Why did Stenson and Eamon need Mae to help close the Circle?
29. At the end, could Kalden/Ty have said something different to convince Mae to stop trying to help close the Circle, or was she too far gone?
30. NYTimes says, “Mae, then, is not a victim but a dull villain.” How is this true? How is this not true?
The Circle Pinterest board
Lit Lovers Discussion Questions
The New Yorker article: “Sharing is Caring is Sharing”
Interview with Dave Eggers
If you like The Circle, you might like…
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Notes From the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone
Terms of Service by Jacob Silverman