The Circle

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Ty Gospodinov / Kalden Character Analysis

Ty Gospodinov, an introverted computer genius, is the founder of the Circle and the creator of TruYou, the online identity system at the core of the Circle’s success. In creating TruYou, Ty thought that he was creating a digital utopia, but he becomes uneasy with the Circle’s rapidly growing power. Although he’s one of the three “Wise Men” who run the company, he is sidelined by the others after he calls for privacy protections. Throughout The Circle, Ty is a mysterious character, seen only via webcam at the occasional company meeting (although it’s hinted that those webcasts are not what they appear and Ty may have suffered a sinister fate). At the end of the novel, it’s revealed that Ty is actually Kalden—the mysterious Circle employee who has been having an occasional affair with Mae Holland. Kalden, trying to act on his ethical qualms with the Circle, enlists Mae to help him undermine the Circle’s plans, but Mae betrays Ty to the other two Wise Men, who seemingly place Ty under arrest (or, it’s implied, have him murdered).

Ty Gospodinov / Kalden Quotes in The Circle

The The Circle quotes below are all either spoken by Ty Gospodinov / Kalden or refer to Ty Gospodinov / Kalden. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Networking and the Internet Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Circle published in 2014.
Book One, part 1 Quotes

The more she looked at it, the stranger it became. The artist had arranged it such that each of the Wise Men had placed a hand on another's shoulder. It made no sense and defied the way arms could bend or stretch.

Related Characters: Mae Holland, Ty Gospodinov / Kalden, Tom Stenton, Eamon Bailey
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

On her first day at the Circle, Mae Holland encounters a mysterious painting that depicts the three “Wise Men” who run the company together. While it may seem odd for three people to run the same company (wouldn’t one of them rise above the other two?), Mae believes that the three Wise Men balance one another out: one of the Wise Men is aggressive and materialistic, one is shy, and the third is charismatic and generous. As Mae approaches the painting, however, she notices that it’s not a very realistic depiction of how three human beings would actually stand together. The painting tries to give the sense that each man has a hand on another’s shoulder—a sign of equality and respect—but the logistics of this are possible only in a fictionalized depiction. The equality and cooperation that the hands on the shoulders represent, in other words, are possible in art, but not in life.

The painting functions as a symbol for the naiveté of Mae’s view of the Wise Men. She and most of the other Circle employees believe that three powerful people can get along and run a company as equals, but, in reality, only one—the aggressive, dangerous Tom Stenton—will rise above the other two and seize power.

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Book One, part 7 Quotes

The extra layer of the CircleSurveys helped distract Mae from thinking about Kalden, who had yet to contact her, and who had not once answered his phone. She'd stopped calling after two days, and had chosen not to mention him at all to Annie or anyone else. Her thoughts about him followed a similar path as they had after their first encounter, at the circus. First, she found his unavailability intriguing, even novel. But after three days, it seemed willful and adolescent. By the fourth day, she was tired of the game. Anyone who disappeared like that was not a serious person. He wasn't serious about her or how she felt.

Related Characters: Mae Holland, Ty Gospodinov / Kalden
Related Symbols: The Voice
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Mae begins to exhibit the brainwashing and indoctrination that, by the end of the novel, will turn her into an obedient servant of the Circle. Recognizing that she’s not participating enough in the company’s social scene, Mae’s superiors have given her a special headset; all day long, the headset prompts her with survey questions about her likes, dislikes, etc. Instead of finding this to be intrusive and bizarre, though, Mae thinks it’s a comforting distraction. The Circle’s survey questions (which seem to be designed to help businesses sell products to her and her coworkers) keep her from thinking about Kalden, the mysterious man with whom she’s had passionate sex a few nights ago.

In short, the passage conveys the antagonistic relationship between online socializing and real, person-to-person socializing. During her time at the Circle, Mae spends more and more time interacting with her electronic devices—taking surveys, posting comments, etc.—and less and less time around actual flesh-and-blood human beings. As the passage shows, Mae’s interactions with the Internet and electronic devices brainwash her into slowly forgetting about her personal relationships. Instead of pursuing a relationship that could be interesting and important, Mae prefers to drown herself in shallow technological experiences. Put another way, technology is making Mae more loyal to the Internet, and to the Circle itself, than to any single human being.

Book Two, part 3 Quotes

"But there are a thousand protections to prevent all of this. It's just not possible. I mean, governments will make sure—"
"Governments who are transparent? Legislators who owe their reputations to the Circle? Who could be ruined the moment they speak out? What do you think happened to Williamson? Remember her? She threatens the Circle monopoly and, surprise, the feds find incriminating stuff on her computer. You think that's a coincidence? That's about the hundredth person Stenton's done that to. Mae, once the Circle's complete, that's it. And you helped complete it. This democracy thing, or Demoxie, whatever it is, good god. Under the guise of having every voice heard, you create mob rule, a filterless society where secrets are crimes."

Related Characters: Mae Holland (speaker), Ty Gospodinov / Kalden (speaker), Tom Stenton, Eamon Bailey
Page Number: 488
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mae has learned the truth about Ty Gospodinov: the person she’s known as “Kalden” is Ty. Ty was one of the original founders of the Circle, but now he has become disillusioned with the concept of information transparency. He believes that the Circle is going to become so powerful that it will rule the world and become a totalitarian dictatorship. Now, Ty is trying to convince Mae to use her global influence to speak out against the Circle and prevent it from seizing power.

When Mae hears Ty name all the potential dangers of the Circle, she’s highly skeptical. She’s so accustomed to thinking of the Circle as a benevolent and even utopian organization that she can’t process the notion that the company is tyrannical. It’s striking that she can think of no better counterargument to Ty’s claims than the idea that the government will be able to keep the Circle from enacting an unethical agenda—it has been clear for a long time that the Circle treats politicians like pawns. Evidently, Mae has spent very little time thinking about the ethics or actions of the Circle. She’s become so swept up in its lofty goals of transparency that she hasn’t stopped to ask herself if transparency is a good idea.

Mae pictured all this. She pictured the Circle being taken apart, sold off amid scandal, thirteen thousand people out of jobs, the campus overtaken, broken up, turned into a college or mall or something worse. And finally she pictured life on a boat with this man, sailing the world, untethered, but when she tried to, she saw, instead, the couple on the barge she'd met months ago on the bay. Out there, alone, living under a tarp, drinking wine from paper cups, naming seals, reminiscing about island fires.
At that moment, Mae knew what she needed to do.

Related Characters: Mae Holland (speaker), Ty Gospodinov / Kalden (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Elderly Couple
Page Number: 491
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, at the climax of the book, Mae has a decision to make: she can either partner with Ty Gospodinov and speak out against the Circle, denouncing the company for its human rights violations, or she can betray Ty and continue serving the Circle.

The book does not explicitly explain why Mae thinks about the elderly couple from the boat during such a tense moment, but it’s suggested that the elderly couple represents a certain way of life: the private, old-fashioned way of life that Ty is trying to preserve and the Circle is trying to destroy forever. The reader is left to guess whether Mae is thinking about the couple and imagining that she and Ty could have a similarly rewarding life together on a boat, or whether she dreads the notion of turning out like the couple. The fate of the company—and even of the country and world overall—depends on how Mae thinks of the couple. Eggers does leave this as a cliffhanger, but the ending nonetheless seems to be embedded in Eggers’ language in this passage. Mae’s imagining the Circle being dismantled seems far more emotional than her thoughts of the elderly couple. She seems distressed by the idea of the company falling apart, but she describes the couple dispassionately and even with disappointment (which implied in the phrase “but when she tried to, she saw, instead…”). It seems clear that Mae’s emotional investment in her company, produced by sophisticated manipulation and outright brainwashing, will win out.

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Ty Gospodinov / Kalden Character Timeline in The Circle

The timeline below shows where the character Ty Gospodinov / Kalden appears in The Circle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book One, part 1
Social Networking and the Internet Theme Icon
Utopianism and Perfection Theme Icon
...portrait of the “Three Wise Men,” the three visionaries who run the Circle. There is Ty Gospodinov, the young computer genius who founded the company and who’s rumored to have Asperger’s... (full context)
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Annie tells Mae more about Ty’s role in the company. Ty’s great idea—the one on which the Circle was founded—was that... (full context)
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Standing next to Ty in the portrait is Tom Stenton, the Circle’s CEO. Stenton seems to be in the... (full context)
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...who suffers from cerebral palsy, and his enthusiastic relationship with the company’s young employees. Somehow, Ty, Bailey, and Stenton balance each other out and keep the company successful. As Mae looks... (full context)
Book One, part 3
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...to the restroom, Mae sees a man walking through the halls; he introduces himself as Kalden. He explains that he’s worked at the Circle for a while, and he asks to... (full context)
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As Kalden leaves, a cold-looking woman walks into the room, greets Mae, and introduces herself as Gina.... (full context)
Book One, part 5
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...to her knees to protect her from the swordsman—Mae looks up and realizes that it’s Kalden. He asks if she’s okay, and then walks her away from the circus. (full context)
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Mae walks with Kalden and abruptly tells him, “You don’t remember my name.” Kalden admits he doesn’t. He gets... (full context)
Book One, part 6
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The morning after she reunites with Kalden, Mae calls Annie and tells her that she’s met someone—someone with grey hair. Annie is... (full context)
Privacy Theme Icon
Alone, Mae thinks about meeting Kalden the previous evening. She thinks about how they walked around the campus, and how, at... (full context)
Surveillance and Transparency Theme Icon
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...do anything to harm the Circle. She asks Mae to keep an eye out for Kalden—she’s worried about having “some shadowy guy skulking around campus.” (full context)
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One evening, Mae finds herself thinking about Kalden. She texts Annie and tells her that she hasn’t heard from him in a while.... (full context)
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That night, the Circle holds a reception party for Congresswoman Santos. Ty appears via webcam, congratulating the Circle for its “awesome new step” toward transparency. Mae notices... (full context)
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While walking around the party, Mae encounters Kalden. Immediately, she asks him why she’s been unable to find him, and he asks her... (full context)
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When Kalden and Mae are alone again, she asks where the “stuff from Stewart’s camera” goes. Kalden... (full context)
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Kalden leads Mae to a large room, in which there’s a huge red box. Kalden explains... (full context)
Book One, part 7
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The morning after having sex with Kalden, Mae wakes up in her dorm room. She calls Annie and tells her that she... (full context)
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...five hundred questions a day, and she finds that CircleSurveys distract her from thinking about Kalden, “the only man for whom she’d ever had real lust.” (full context)
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One day, Mae sees Kalden walking into her office. Just as she’s about to greet him, she hears her voice... (full context)
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...paramilitaries, Mae gets a call from a blocked number while she’s in the bathroom. It’s Kalden. He says that he needs to see her, and that he knows where she is.... (full context)
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...generate revenue by advertising for other businesses. As Gina speaks, Mae openly messages Annie about Kalden—Gina seems intensely jealous that Mae talks to Annie “all day.” Annie asks Mae for Kalden’s... (full context)
Book Two, part 1
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As Mae watches the shark, she sees a figure standing by the aquarium—it’s Kalden. Mae hasn’t heard from Kalden since she went transparent. Mae tries to follow Kalden—she walks... (full context)
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...herself by watching footage from SeeChange cameras around the world. She also tries to find Kalden online, but, as usual, she can’t, since she doesn't know his name. (full context)
Book Two, part 2
Surveillance and Transparency Theme Icon
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...rings. She sees that the caller ID is blocked, and knows that it must be Kalden. She doesn’t answer, and Kalden calls a dozen more times. For the rest of the... (full context)
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...no interest in politics. Now, they’re excited to be part of a fully engaged populace. Kalden continues calling Mae, and she continues ignoring him. (full context)
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Around 12:30, Mae works up the confidence to answer Kalden. Kalden tells Mae that he’s rigged things so that nobody will be able to hear... (full context)
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Mae hangs up and makes her way to the Great Hall, disgusted with Kalden. In the Great Hall, there’s a demonstration of Demoxie on the screen, and the audience... (full context)
Social Networking and the Internet Theme Icon
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...the Circle will buy them out. Bailey and Stenton attend the meeting in person, while Ty appears via video feed. Mae remembers what Kalden has told her: speak out against the... (full context)
Book Two, part 3
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Stenton greets Mae and says, “I don’t think you’ve met Ty yet, have you, Mae?” Mae turns and gasps: Kalden is standing in front of her.... (full context)
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...same space. Although Mae proceeds with her script, she feels almost nauseous—she can’t believe that Kalden is Ty. (full context)
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...seaweed, the coral, and the anemones, until it’s the only thing left in the tank. Ty says, “that was about what I imagined would happen.” Quickly, while nobody is looking, he... (full context)
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...bathroom, Mae turns her lens toward the door and carefully looks down at the note Ty slipped her. Ty insists on meeting Mae soon: all she has to do is say,... (full context)
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Mae finds Ty by the red sculpture, and when she sees him she feels repulsed. She accuses him... (full context)
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Ty begs Mae to use her influence to fight against Completion. He created the idea of... (full context)
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Ty explains that Eamon Bailey genuinely believes that life will be “perfect” when the Circle is... (full context)
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Ty promises Mae that once he has taken down the Circle the two of them can... (full context)
Book Three
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As Book Three begins, months have passed since Kalden reached out to Mae, and Mae is sure that she has prevented an “apocalypse.” She... (full context)
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Mae remembers what happened after Kalden approached her: she promised to read the letter, and then immediately went to talk to... (full context)