No Mercy in the Circle

Although readers primary form a connection are suppose to be drawn to Mae as we witness her journey through the Circle. Instead, I found myself drawn more to Mercer. Unlike the other characters in this novel, Mercer is different. He is outside of the circle, where people interact face to face rather than through screens. He is more aware of his surroundings and the effect the Circle has on everyday life. Whereas society welcomes the revolutionary ideas the company has made, he is suspicious and reluctant to embrace these ideas. However, it is Mercer’s actions that make him a pivotal character and helps tie the novel together.

One passage that illustrates Mercer’s importance to the novel is when he states his disapproval for the Circle. He states,

“No, first of all, I know it’s all people like you. And that’s what’s so scary. Individually, you don’t know what you’re doing collectively. But secondly, don’t presume the benevolence of your leaders. For years there was this happy time when those controlling the major internet conduits were actually decent enough people. Or at least they weren’t predatory and vengeful” (161).

What interested me in this passage is that Mercer and I shared the same opinions about the Circle. I understand that the Circle is making our lives easier but at the same time it was taking away our privacy. As a member of society I have a right to share or not share what I want. If I wanted to let people know what I did last night then I would post it on Facebook or another social media. For me privacy is a right rather than a privilege. Yet, in the Circle, Eggers implies the opposite.

This is why I love that a character like Mercer is included in the novel. He understands that it is a right and does not want to freely give it up. In some ways, Mercer’s character symbolizes a rebellion similar to Winston in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Like Winston, Mercer has thoughts that contradict the Circle’s (Big Brother) slogan, “Secrets are Lies, Sharing is Caring, Privacy is Theft”. Although there is no hint yet, it seems almost inevitable that if the Circle wants to gather all the knowledge and information in the world, they will eventually have to deal with Mercer. Either he will cave or they will cave. It seems as if Eggers is setting up an interesting battle between the two. And understanding that Mercer is stubborn when it comes to technology, it will be a tough battle for both sides (But between you and me, I hope Mercer wins).

Another aspect in this passage that shows Mercer’s importance to the overall novel is how easily he can get under Mae’s skin. In the passage not only does he realize what the Circle is doing, he is also calling Mae out for becoming one of their minions. If Mae did not hate him already, she sure does now (evident by how she told him to F-off a page later). But, Eggers use of Mercer’s character in this way demonstrates the effect he has on Mae. By simply providing an opposing view point and showing Mae that she has become mundane, he forces Mae to prove him wrong. This is why she goes kayaking to Blue Island that same night.

Mercer is a pivotal character in this novel. While you may not agree that he is the most important, you can’t take away the impact he makes in the Circle.

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4 Responses to No Mercy in the Circle

  1. rwl14 says:

    As a fellow reader, I will agree that Mercer’s got the right idea about The Circle, and I believe that’s the point. Mae starts out as a character the audience will most likely relate to, but the events at The Circle and Eggers’ word choice throughout is such that it is almost impossible to feel positively about anything The Circle does. Mercer acts as a fellow member of the audience, someone outside looking in. His character shows just how far Mae has bought into The Circle’s ideas. And we would want Mercer to win out. He won’t, though, and I believe that’s the point.


  2. estraussman says:

    Mercer’s dissent is put into the book to offer a counter-point to the prevailing thoughts. He’s kind of like the hippie raging against the machine. He is so religiously anti-social media that he comes off very preacher, which is also intentional. It shows the type of fervent inconsistant activism that is prevalent on the web. It is passionate, uninformed and sporadic.


  3. narrativeandtech says:

    I believe I heard Dr. Fest mention in class that Mercer does eventually cave to the Circle, although I haven’t read that far ahead yet. But, I think that that’s the point that Eggers is trying to make, and I think it is a very similar to the point Galloway makes about protocol: “Opposing protocol is like opposing gravity-there is nothing that says it can’t be done, but such a pursuit is misguided and in the end hasn’t hurt gravity much.” Technology is just too useful and to pervasive for us to live outside the circle, no matter how aware we are of what it is doing to us.


  4. jil106 says:

    I’m totally agree with you that Mercer is one of the most important character in this novel. He is the first one who against Mae. There is a more conscious version of The Circle in his mind. He was trying to pull Mae out of the Circle.


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