The Circle is the Party, overalls optional.
“God, I’m sorry,” she said, remembering now. “At five I left campus to get some aloe at this health shop in San Vincenzo. My dad asked for this particular kind of-”
“Mae,” Dan interrupted, his tone condescending, “the company store has aloe. Our store’s better stocked than some corner store, and with superior products. Ours is carefully curated.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know the company store had something like aloe.”
“You went to our store and couldn’t find it?” (Eggers 178)
In this passage, Mae is confronted by the thought pol- I mean Dan, her CE supervisor. Mae has made a grave error in leaving the glass dome of the Circle for an hour, and therefore requires that her behavior is rectified. But the great and wise overlords of the Circle are merciful – this time. They deign only to inform, to reflect back on this “teachable moment” to ensure that Mae doesn’t make another heinous error of purchasing a gel from a different organization.
But Mae, as any loyal member of the circle would do, doesn’t defend herself. She doesn’t even remark upon the fact that the aloe is for her dad, so that there would be no way for her to make that round trip fast enough to be on time for a “semi-mandatory” event. She doesn’t say anything about her simply missing the details and invite for the event – which Dan and the all-knowing Circle should already be aware of. She can’t even muster up the bravery to question the assumption that the circle has superior aloe, let alone her earlier remarks about needing a particular kind for her dad.
Because of course the Circle has better aloe. It is carefully curated. I haven’t the slightest idea about how one would really go about curating aloe and narrowing it down into a small selection of objectively superior products, and neither does Mae. Mae does not need to know, even though Mae is a member of the Circle. The Circle itself knows all, but does not see fit to bestow this greater knowledge to Mae. But of course the Circle does know how to select the best aloe. Not for even a second can Mae call this into question. The Circle is always right.
Mae’s only defense is that she didn’t know they had aloe. But of course the Circle store does. They probably sell dragon tears. As soon as Mae realizes this she prostrates herself before her Inquisitor to be punished, and then sent off for further correction by Inquisitors Josiah and Denise. But again, they are always right and Mae is always in the wrong. Leaving the campus, not taking pictures of every meal you eat and street you cross and bird you see, not joining the kayak group if you kayak. These things are all bad, because the Circle says they are. And by the end, Mae knows this. They are bad because the Circle is good, and they take you out of the Circle. Mae wouldn’t ever want to leave the circle though, now would she?
Under most circumstances, this would be outrageous invasion of privacy, especially if it was an employer. But the Circle is a different kind of corporate entity. It is something like a drug dealer. All of these social networking tools, available only through a single provider. But once society as a whole converts to using TruYou, there isn’t a clean way to back out. This passage highlights the Circle as a massive creeping entity, slowly overtaking everything that you once viewed as private. The scariest part is that none of its constituent parts are involved in any particular conspiracy, and that most of its members really do want to do good, and think that the Circle is the way to do that. That is also much like the Party, where there does not exist any individual pulling the strings. It’s the thousands of people in the thought police and inner party working together against their common interest. But the kicker is later on in the book, when the Circle starts to add more slogans, two of which are SECRETS ARE LIES and PRIVACY IS THEFT. Not far removed from FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.