During one kayaking trip, Mae Holland passes by an elderly couple who are sitting in a boat, drinking wine, and reminiscing about the past. The elderly couple seems to symbolize the “old way of life,” which the Circle is slowly killing: a life characterized by ordinariness, simplicity, and person-to-person connection. As such, the elderly couple is a kind of Rorschach test for how one feels about life lived outside of social networking: envy of the couple’s life reflects skepticism of the Circle, and disdain for their life indicates an alignment with the Circle’s goals.
The Elderly Couple Quotes in The Circle
"'Were you here when that burned?" the man asked, pointing to a large uninhabited island in the middle of the bay. It rose, mute and black, behind them. Mae shook her head.
‘It burned for two days. We had just gotten here' At night, the heat—you could feel it even here. We swam every night in this godforsaken water, just to stay cool. We thought the world was ending."
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.