Eggers Subtle Manipulation. Blog Post 2.

“You’re here because your opinions are valued. They’re so valued that the world needs to know them—your opinions on just about everything. Isn’t that flattering?” (229).

This particular passage is fairly representative of how dialogue is being used as a narrative tool throughout the novel. In this scene Mae is being fitted for CircleSurveys. Pete Ramirez is instructing her on how the system works and her responsibility with answering as many questions as she can. The dialogue throughout the novel is generally not very substantive. The language is often vague and the ideas are generally not very concrete. In this passage for example Ramirez is explaining the fundamental idea reasoning behind CircleSurveys, and fails to convey anything that isn’t surface level. Mae’s opinions are valued, but there is not very much discussion of why they’re valued or how her opinions are going to be utilized. It’s simply part of The Circle’s obsession with documenting every possible bit of knowledge regardless of how much time it wastes and whether that data can actually be used. Later in the novel, however, Mae’s habits become incredibly influential in that whatever product she recommends people will buy. This is just one demonstration of how Eggers uses seemingly small plot points to later build into the grand totalitarian theme. In this scene, her opinions read as entirely inconsequential, but it later becomes apparent that her opinions can have a fairly profound impact. In addition, the word choice here is not very specific. There is no obvious poignancy in language; there are no words that cannot be misconstrued or interpreted in multiple ways. The Circle does quite a bit of saying a lot of words while saying nothing at all. This is reminiscent of real life tech releases where words like “innovative” or “revolutionary” are used where no one has any real idea of what those actually mean. In this context, the word “valued” can is pretty multifaceted. There is no utility being applied to the “value” and therefore it becomes fairly meaningless. Eggers demonstrates this obvious vagueness with the statement “your opinions on just about everything.” This statement doesn’t say much, but it does allow The Circle to continue with this implicate shroud of mystery, which lends itself pretty effectively to these dystopian ideas presented later in the novel. Moreover, the subtle methods of control used by The Circle are pretty evident here. First, they’re ensuring that Mae feels valued simply by telling her that she should feel valued. They don’t provide any reasoning for it, but they repeat it enough that the idea becomes engrained. Also, they’re continually suggestive of not only the concepts Mae should be aware of, but also of how she should feel about them. The phrase “Isn’t that flattering” holds a lot of weight in the larger context of the novel. Not only is it outright manipulative to be so suggestive with opinions, but it alludes to this larger theme of the novel where it is impossible to go against initiatives with seemingly good ideals behind them. For example, the way that SeeChange is being framed as a method of stopping violent militant groups is impossible to go against. If you don’t support SeeChange, you support terrorism. In this case, there is no reason for Mae to not be flattered. If she does not adhere to these suggested emotional responses, the alternative appears fairly irrational. In this case, these suggested behavior and emotional modifications are fairly insignificant, but Eggers uses them to allude to these grander themes within the novel, such as the inability to be unsupportive of a product like SeeChange. The way that dialogue is being framed throughout the novel means that Mae really does not have an alternative than to accept whatever her superiors are saying regardless of whether it is substantive or if she disagrees with them. This quote is an overall demonstration of Eggers’ subtle narrative techniques to convey very complex plot points and ideologies through a series of many very small and seemingly insignificant themes.

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One Response to Eggers Subtle Manipulation. Blog Post 2.

  1. Steph Roman says:

    These contrastingly “valued” opinions strike me. The Circle collects data, but for what? More veggie options at lunch? The Circle surveys seemingly go on infinitely, asking all sorts of strange questions of the participants. If anything, it just seems like a well-disguised personality test. I think a great jumping off point would be the weight that Mae’s opinions carry once she becomes public and transparent. She has the power to influence world events. I can’t remember what her highest visibility was, but was it around 100 million people? That’s catastrophic. She could change the future. And yet she doesn’t. You could easily take these ideas and push them into the form of an essay, if you were inclined.

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