“But then again, it wasn’t entirely accurate, so was that the problem? Having a matrix of preferences presented as your essence, as the whole you? Maybe that was it. It was some kind of mirror, but it was incomplete, distorted. And if Francis wanted any or all of that information, why couldn’t he just ask her?”(Eggers, 126)
A person’s past experiences play a large part in shaping who they are. We are all different, from little things like a specific food you don’t enjoy eating to big things like the political beliefs you subscribe to or the religious denomination to which you belong. But despite the ways these facts shape us, to be human is not just a sum of preferences. In class, we referred to the Circle as inhuman. There were many different explanations about why the Circle was inhuman, but it boiled down to this; it devalues the concept of identity on both a local (personal) and a global front.
Dave Eggers organizes his book into a three book system, instead of traditional chapters, to mark the descent of Mae’s personal identity. Mae is slowly losing her value as a human. Her interactions with other people become less and less meaningful. In book one, Mae wasn’t yet desensitized to the many invasions of privacy the Circle was endorsing. At that point, she was still “…almost preppy. But she’s no drone. She’s a nice girl with occasional bursts of curiosity”(Eggers, 142). She still had spontaneous kayaking trips, still had passionate trysts with Kalden. But the Circle, with each of their “teachable moments”, slowly chips away at her sense of self until she becomes the unthinking mouthpiece of “Circlean” beliefs.
The above paragraph in book one, and the next scene at her parents’ house, helps illustrate Mae’s faltering identity. That scene is parallel to the scene a few hours away in book continuity.
“Mae, we have to change how we interact. Every time I see or hear from you, it’s through this filter. You send me links, you quote someone talking about me, you say you saw a picture of me on someone’s wall…. It’s always this third-party assault”(Eggers, 131-132).
“That’s because they said you were using endangered species for your work!”
“But I’ve never done that.”
“Well, how am I supposed to know that?”
“You can ask me! Actually ask me.”
These quotes exemplify Mae’s naïve, warped and self-absorbed world view. At this point, she seems to believe that only she has a complete identity, only has the right to a complete identity. She was angry with Francis for using LuvLuv to paint a distorted picture of her essence, but six pages later, an interesting, and intentionally ironic decision made by Eggers, Mae does the same thing to Mercer.
Mae’s diminishing sense of self is paralleled by her world’s diminishing identities. Cultural identities, formed by the important past events of a social group, are just as important, and have just as much of a role in forming individual identity, as our experiences. This too has gone down the tube with the rise of the Circle. From solstice parties with no relation to the Earth or pagan holidays to the “Spruce-Goose or Enola Gay” debate, human history in the Circle’s world has become something to look at, in a “this is history, neat” sort of way, but not to interact with, not learned from.
By book two, Mae is totally on board and starting to clash with her “friends”, Annie and Kalden (Ty), about their disillusionment with the Circle. History, at this point, has only been shown to be a detriment, “ruining” Annie by announcing her slave owning ancestors. And finally, book three, Mae is actively furthering the cause, shown by intending to bring up thought broadcasting to the Gang of 40. At the end, we realize that the Circle has caused an apocalypse of a wildly different kind. An apocalypse where all of the people still exist, they’re just faceless, just worthless beings in a world of nothing.