The Circle is the exhilarating new novel from Dave Eggers, best-selling author of A Hologram for the King, a finalist for the National Book Award. 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. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. 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. This ebook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a "define" option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently.
Of which literary device does the author make use in this paragraph to give us a sense of setting?
Alexander Calder was an American sculptor known as the originator of the mobile. A mobile is a three dimensional sculpture made with balanced pieces. The mobile can move using a motor or air currents. (This annotation contains an image)
"Koyaanisqatsi" is a documentary which looks at the world. It investigates the effect man has had on the landscape and the environment. The film shows the world in a condition where it is untouched. The film is not narrated. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the author's word choices in this section, which of the following can be inferred about Mae's opinion of her last job?
Based on Annie's descriptions in this paragraph, which of the following adjectives best describes her tone?
An initial public offering, or IPO, is the first sale of stock by a company to the public.
Theme is the underlying message in a novel. Watch this video on theme and think about what themes are present in this novel. (This annotation contains a video)
Which competing themes are expressed through the description of The Circle and the description of the library?
Where did the idea of utopia come from? Watch the following video for that answer. What would YOUR utopia look like? (This annotation contains a video)
You will find as you continue reading that the setting, especially the place, is one of the most important literary elements in "The Circle." Watch the linked video about the importance of setting in literature. (This annotation contains a video)
The author is clearly creating a specific character with Francis by giving him unique character traits. Watch the following video for more information about character development: (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following is an example of a choice the author has made to relate the setting of the story?
Brandon compares the failure of a hard drive with the destruction of a home. What is the impact of this comparison?
Notice how Annie uses humor any time there is a situation which calls for an emotional connection. Keep watching for additional examples of this response and make a prediction about why Annie feels so uncomfortable expressing emotions.
"The Circle" is being told from a specific point of view. Review the video below and keep reading to determine the author's point of view in this novel. (This annotation contains a video)
In an attempt to reveal information about The Circle from a newbie's point of view, which point of view does the author employ?
Based on textual evidence, it can be reasonably inferred that Sabine and Josef
Siena's Duomo was built between 1215 and 1263 and designed in part by Gothic master Nicola Pisano. His son, Giovanni, drew up the plans for the lower half of the facade, begun in 1285. The facade's upper half was added in the 14th century. (This annotation contains an image)
The term "sea-change" was first coined in writing by William Shakespeare in "The Tempest" (follow the link if you'd like to read it in context). Today, the idiom "sea change" is used to mean a metamorphosis or alteration. Think about the implications of using this term as the name for The Circle's new technology. (This annotation contains a link)
When Dave Eggers was writing this novel in 2012, the notion of constant surveillance may have seemed futuristic. We now know that technology like the SeeChange is all too present today. Watch the following CNBC video clip to see how this is impacting you today. (This annotation contains a video)
The mood in the video above and the mood in this section of the novel are different. Based on textual evidence and word choices, which of the following best describes the mood that Bailey is creating in his audience with his speech about SeeChange?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. The cause of MS is still unknown. To learn more about the types of MS, you can check out the website below. (This annotation contains a link)
"He still makes chandeliers out of antlers"?Which of the following sentences best captures the sentiment behind Mae's above observation?
A stereotype is to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same. Note here Francis' stereotypical idea is that smart people can't also be athletic. Can you think of any other false stereotypes?
Francis' tone here can best be described as
Why would Francis prefer a woman who's off-balance?
How do the author's choices to introduce the character of Gina through this dialogue and to use words which are italicized impact our first impressions of Gina?
There are many ancient festivals on May Day, but no war holidays. The war connection to "mayday" is that it is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by mariners and aviators.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders is a French-founded (now international and federal) humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization best known for its projects in war-torn areas. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. (This annotation contains an image)
Mae has been told during her training by Gina that she won't be judged by her involvement and rank on the social network. What, though, can be inferred from Dan's report?
After major events like the Oscars or the Teen Choice Awards, stars are offered "swag bags" with products worth, in the case of the Oscars, hundreds of thousands of dollars. (This annotation contains an image)
Annie's eleven messages seem to be bordering on paranoia. What life lesson has Annie realized she forgot during her earlier conversation with Mae?
In the following scene, you will observe the use of irony by the author. Watch the following video to learn more about the different types of irony. (This annotation contains a video)
Which type of irony is depicted in the highlighted observation by Mae?
What does Mae finally decide is the reason she is so upset with the afternoon's presentation?
This is a side of Mae that we haven't previously seen. She is frankly rude to Mercer, making fun of his business and ignoring his requests. What does this add to the character of Mae that you've created in your mind?
Mercer makes some excellent points about the pervasiveness of social media in our lives. A recent Huffington Post article made the same assertion. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on her reflections in this passage, which life lesson is Mae ignoring?
Besides equating the barge to a Hooverville, which other choice of phrasing in this passage would indicate that anyone who lived in such a dwelling would do so because of poverty or harsh circumstances?
Hoovervilles were shanty towns built by homeless people during the Great Depression. They were named after Herbert Hoover, who was the president during this time period. (This annotation contains an image)
In the preceding exchange, which of the following words/actions should be a clue to Mae that the event she missed on Sunday was important and she should have been there?
The doctor is talking about the importance of preventative medicine. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Villalobos' assessment of the impact of preventative care. (This annotation contains an image)
This actual genome study in Iceland was used to show how technology can offer a whole new understanding of the roots of disease and human evolution.
Until this last passage, Dr. Villalobos seems fairly business-like in her interview with Mae. Which adjective best describes a new character trait revealed here? Feel free to use the define feature if necessary.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.
The Circle Quiz 1
Mae chose the event to attend that night based on which literary device?
Constantin Brâncuși was a Romanian sculptor, painter and photographer. He made his career in France. Considered a pioneer of modernism, Brâncuși is called the patriarch of modern sculpture. (This annotation contains an image)
Note the author's interesting choice of wording in this passage. Rather than just describing the woman as wearing a blue suit, she is wearing a "blueberry-colored suit." Why would the author have chosen this wording to describe a character?
On May 15, 1911, the Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of Standard Oil Company. They said it was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The court’s decision forced Standard to break into 34 independent companies spread across the country and abroad.
While Dan is explaining The Circle in the most positive terms, it has some similarities to the company towns of the 1800-1900s. Read the short excerpt about company towns and listen to the primary source interview before you answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on textual evidence, which of the following details does The Circle not have in common with traditional company towns described in the above annotation?
In 2000, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services passed the HIPAA Privacy Rule which establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. Should Josiah, as a representative of The Circle, take into consideration that perhaps Mae didn't post about her father's episode in order to protect his privacy?
Based on this section, with which statement referring to the theme of Individual and Society would Josiah most agree?
Think about the poem you read, The Unknown Citizen. What is one thing that the narrators don't know about either Mae or the "Unknown Citizen" regardless of the vast amount of data accumulated about each?
Mae's situation bears a striking resemblance to that of the subject in the poem "The Unknown Citizen" by W. H. Auden (a British poet who, by the time of the composition of this poem, had become an American citizen). Read the linked poem and then continue to read about Mae's overnight climb up the social media ladder. (This annotation contains a link)
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the technology that Mae and Francis are plugged into nonstop is probably what is making it difficult for both of them to fall asleep. Click on "How electronics affect sleep" to find out more before you read the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
What is something that will NOT help Mae get to sleep faster according to the National Sleep Foundation's recommendations?
It's interesting to note that Annie mentioned Senator Williamson would personally "be in a world of ____" when she held a news conference encouraging the investigation of The Circle, a megacorporation with unlimited electronic capabilities. Suddenly, the senator has incriminating evidence found on her computer. Why isn't this causing Mae to question The Circle, instead of thinking of Francis?
Based on her past attendance at events, what is something Mae should NOT do at this reception?
After reading the article, you will recognize that the answers below represent different meanings eye rolls have symbolized over the years. What point of view does Kalden's eye roll seem to symbolize in this passage?
The meaning of the eye roll has changed a lot in the past century. Read the attached article from SLATE about the meaning of the eye roll before you answer the next question: (This annotation contains a link)
Donald Clarence Judd was an American artist considered the leading international exponent of minimalism. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following statements best summarizes the author's inferences about technology?
Think about the access that Kalden had to secure rooms in The Circle. Do any of Mae's suppositions about who he might be sound rational? Make a prediction about Kalden that does have a rational explanation based on what you know of this character.
Despite the author's use of the limited omniscient point of view concentrating on Mae, he uses other means to develop the point of view of additional characters. Which line in this passage would indicate that Pete feels positively about the CircleSurvey program?
While the Grand Canyon is one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World," $1200 is a lot of money! (This annotation contains an image)
Many scientific studies have been done confirming the essential nature of dreaming. Memory processing happens during sleep every night, and an absence of deep sleep has a profoundly negative impact on the memory. Think about what your life might be like if you could NEVER shut down your brain, even during sleep!
Which of the following themes is best supported by this overwhelming interest in "going clear"?
As a reader, you have to wonder how EVERY person who tried to argue against the Circle is found to be a criminal or deviant. Is this poetic justice or intentional schemes against the opposition?
Just minutes before, Mae was thinking about the power of her choices and the impact of people watching her make those choices. Now that she's "off the grid," she is making much different choices. Which of the following words best defines Mae's actions here?
Do you think there is a difference between a regular lie, a white lie, and a lie of omission?
The following section contains a form of sarcasm. Review the linked list of types of sarcasm before answering the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on the list you read on the previous annotation, which form of sarcasm is Mae's mother using in this passage?
Upscale antler chandeliers do exist and are worth into the thousands of dollars. In addition, Mercer is concerned with making sure his supply is sourced in a way that is environmentally sound, which makes each one rare and unique. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the article, which type of prejudice is Mae most exhibiting in this description of Mercer?
Even though Mae just argued that she was the opposite of callous, it's clear that she harbors some deep-seated prejudices. Read the attached article on types of prejudice before answering the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
While Angel Island definitely exists in San Francisco Bay, Blue Island seems to be a fictional setting. The map below indicates the area in which Blue Island would be located. (This annotation contains an image)
Mae understands the dangers and consequences of interfering with a bird's nest, yet she posted information about Mercer's business without understanding the ramifications that large-scale demand and production would have on it. Which literary technique does this comparison illustrate?
Based on Dan's reaction, which statement below is best supported by textual evidence?
It's interesting to follow Dan's thought process here. While it is true that there may have been some impact on Marion's business if anything had happened to Mae, his absolute assertion that her business would close and kayaking in the bay would be banned is definitely extreme. Why would he be using unprovable absolutes in describing the consequences of Mae's actions?
Ok, let's interrupt Eamon for a minute here. Mae is an adult. Are her parents REALLY entitled to know what she does at any time simply because they are her parents? Would it change the situation if Mae were a minor rather than an adult?
Julian Paul Assange is an Australian publisher and journalist. He is known as the editor-in-chief of the website WikiLeaks, which achieved particular prominence in 2010 when it published U.S. military and diplomatic documents. Assange has been under investigation in the United States since that time. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following overarching themes is Eamon best supporting in his conversation with Mae?
If you type this question into an Internet search, you will find lively debate about what is the strongest shape in the universe, and the circle is generally not mentioned near the top. What shape would YOU argue is the strongest in the universe and why?
Which of the following lines most clearly indicates that the conflict between Eamon and Mae has not yet been completely resolved in this scene?
This phrase gets a laugh because it is a reference to the Harry Potter books. Harry receives his father's invisibility cloak from Dumbledore for Christmas. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the way the author has developed the plot so far, how do you predict this Dream Friday event will end?
Scientists have found a vast number of deep sea creatures over the years. This fits Mae's description of Stenton's finds. (This annotation contains an image)
The define feature doesn't provide definitions when idioms are involved. Based on context clues, which of the following would most nearly capture the sentiment behind the idiom "on a lark"?
Wonder Woman's bracelets are indestructible. They are able to absorb the impact of incoming attacks. This allows Wonder Woman to deflect automatic weapon fire, energy blasts and other projectile weaponry. What are the implications of Mae comparing her bracelets to that of Wonder Woman? (This annotation contains an image)
The next scene is written to cause some tension in the reader. Watch the following video on tension and then pay attention to the elements the author uses to increase the tension of the scene. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following elements adds the most tension to this scene?
When her followers zing Tech problems at Circle HQ? Next: Santa forgets Christmas?, what point are they trying to make?
Based on the development of the plot so far, what do you think Completion means? Make a prediction about what completing the circle would look like.
The Circle Quiz 2
It's interesting that Mae chooses to see her more intentional (and limiting) decision-making as liberating. Which of the following literary elements does this support?
Naming the new medical building the Hippocampus is a play on words. The hippocampus is is a major component of the brains of humans and other vertebrates. It turns short-term memories into long-term memories. (This annotation contains an image)
This is an interesting assumption on the part of the Circle. As a student, do you think knowing your ranking locally, state-wide, nationally and world-wide would lead to more or less competition and stress?
Based on the author's choice of words on this page such as flirtatiously, coyly and lust, which of the following adjectives best describes the mood that Mae is feeling during this exchange?
Re-read this sentence about the sculpture, paying close attention to the context clues surrounding the word anomalous. Which phrase is a synonym to anomalous as it is used in this sentence?
This is definitely one relevant interpretation of the sculpture. Go back to Mae's description of the sculpture. What other interpretations of the hand reaching out through the screen can you think of?
What is Mae inferring by noting that "A certain exasperating music had entered [Annie's] voice"?
Note how Mae's attitude toward Annie has changed since the beginning of the novel. When a character changes during the course of a novel, that character is said to be dynamic. Watch the following video to learn more about static and dynamic characters. (This annotation contains a video)
Annies' aunt is referring to affirmative action. In institutions of higher education, affirmative action refers to admission policies that provide equal access to education for those groups that have been historically excluded or underrepresented, such as women and minorities. By referencing this legislation, Annie's aunt is inferring that the only reason Mae got into the same college as Annie is because of affirmative action.
Rather than sounding ungrateful, Mae's parents sound realistic. Which of the following themes is best supported by their desire not to receive email messages anymore?
Manifest Destiny was a widely held belief in the United States that American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent. What is Mercer inferring by using this analogy?
Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' contributions. Think about how the Circle might use gaming mentality to solve homelessness.
After reading this interchange with Edward and his daughter, it certainly seems like Mae's father has a point about the neurotic conversations with people over the Internet and their desire for immediate responses, regardless of how busy the receiver might be. If you were in Mae's position, how might you respond to this latest query?
How does the author's choice to place Annie in this particular position in this scene impact the development of Annie's character?
The Motor Voter Law is a law that enables prospective voters to register when they obtain or renew a driver's license. This convenience results in more voters registering.
Based on Bailey's quoted numbers and the information on our current legislature, which of the following statements is true?
Use the following link to find out how many representatives and senators we have in Washington D.C. today. (This annotation contains a link)
Totalitarianism is concept of a political system in which the state holds total control over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible, as seen in George Orwell's 1984. It's interesting that Apple also referenced Orwell's novel in their first Mac ad below. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the ad you just watched, which of the following statements would both Apple and The Circle agree upon?
By making references to Hitler and Stalin, what is Kalden inferring about Mae's influence?
Imagine what the United States would be like if the scenario at the top of this page was actually true. How would this change our government? How would you vote on this question?
This is an interesting reaction from Mae. Taking into account everything that has happened since Mae volunteered to go Clear, predict why she would think Annie's similar actions in volunteering for PastPerfect would be "haywire."
368 Circlers gave Mae a "frowny face." The highlighted segment is her interpretation of that vote. Which of the following themes is represented here?
With which point of view on the criminal justice system would Stenton NOT agree?
Since Kalden already alluded to Hitler, it's not hard to make a connection between the innocuous "registration" of the NeighborWatch and the registration carried out at Auschwitz during WWII. Note how quickly the conversation went from tagging criminals to tagging their known (but legally innocent) associates, to tagging all citizens "for their protection." (This annotation contains an image)
Annie is referencing the Irish slave trade of the 1600s. As the attached article details, most of the slaves in the New World were, at that time, white. (This annotation contains a link)
What type of imagery does the author have Mercer most rely on in his letter?
The first Great Schism or East–West Schism was the break of communion between what is now the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches which began in the 11th century. The Church split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographical lines, and the fundamental breach has never been healed. (This annotation contains an image)
Which sentence in the preceding passage clearly illustrates Annie's prejudice?
Do you think loyalty to one trumps loyalty to millions?
Which literary device does the author use on this page to further characterize Fiona Highbridge?
Think about Mae's obsession with trying to convince Mercer of the benefits of the Circle. Why do you think it is impossible for her to leave him alone? Why does she think having the Circle find him would cause him to look more favorably on the Circle?
Mae could have stopped the chase several times already. Instead, she intensifies the search by adding aerial drones into the mix. Which of the following character traits is best supported by these details?
The Circle, and Mae specifically, are responsible for hounding Mercer literally to death. Predict the outcome of this action for Mae personally and for the Circle as a company before you continue reading.
With which point of view in the highlighted passage would Mercer most agree?
Why is one of the Wise Men now trying to stop the expansion and completion of the Circle which he created? And why would Bailey and Stenton try to help him disappear?
Before the release of the shark, make a prediction about the success of Stenton's experiment.
Metaphorically, which of the characters in the room watching this demonstration is the shark?
The tone of this passage doesn't seem to match with the urgency of this scene. Why would Mae make such a trivial observation here?
Who has Mae traded in ordered to be remembered by millions?
What do you think Mae will do? Will she read the statement and run off with Kalden? Or will she turn him in to the other Wise Men?
The Circle Quiz 3
Which overarching theme is best supported by Mae's observations about Annie at the end of the novel?