Review of The Circle


Reading The Circle by Dave Eggers was a lot like watching a train crash. The situation presented kept getting worse and worse, but the worse it got, the faster I read. The characters, although they could be infuriatingly realistic in their attitudes and mannerisms, were intriguing. The action, although incredibly mundane at times, never seemed dull. And the conflict was absolutely enthralling. Throughout the book, we see the downward spiral Eggers envisions for society. As surveillance gets heavier and heavier, as control tightens and tightens, as privacy becomes taboo and resistance becomes deadly, we keep hoping at some point the main character Mae will come to her senses and do something, anything, to stop the fascist future from arriving. The climax comes, the climax goes, she does nothing, and the book resolves with an incredibly dark vision of happy individuals willingly handing over their independence.

It’s depressing. It’s unsatisfying. But that lack of satisfaction makes you think. The juxtaposition of happy characters with a dissatisfied reader makes you wonder. It makes it very clear that Eggers sees the intense communication, the intense interconnectedness, the intense surveillance, the intense concern for safety over freedom as a long list of things to avoid. Is that the direction our society is moving in?

The movie, on the other hand, while boasting a highly-qualified cast, does none of these things. The fatal mistake movie producers made was to mess with the resolution. Although other changes throughout the film result in a very different story overall, the change that did the most damage was the change to the ending.

Some things remain the same at the conclusion of the story. There is still surveillance. There is still a lack of privacy. There is still an intense level of interconnectedness. But in the book, we want Mae to act, and she does not. In the movie, we want Mae to act and she does. Which is good in some ways, giving the movie a clear punch that the book lacked. However, because the movie presents many elements with optimism that had a darker filter in the book, the wonderment is lost. The strange form of pessimism seen in the conclusion of the book not only inspires a discussion for readers, but also requires them to look at their own society from an arm’s length away, looking to see if central themes of the book take hold in real life. We have to resolve the ending for ourselves. When we see the movie, it seems as though the drone following Mae around is a friendly drone. All her problems are solved. There is nothing more to discuss.

By completely rewriting the ending of The Circle, the movie has a stronger conclusiveness than the book, but it loses the powerful themes presented.

Alex Houdeshell, Staff Writer

Senior Alex Houdeshell is the Editor-in-Chief of the 2016-2017 Horizons yearbook. In addition to running cross country, indoor track, and track and field, she is the President of Operation Smile. In her spare time, she enjoys playing hacky sack or ultimate frisbee, reading Time magazine, and making a lot of milkshakes.

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