The Circle

The Octopus Symbol Analysis

The Octopus Symbol Icon

Toward the end of the novel, Mae Holland sees that the Circle has installed a huge aquarium in one of its buildings. In the tank, there is an octopus, which swims around, grasping onto everything it can touch. At various points, Eggers emphasizes the connection between the octopus and Eamon Bailey, the Wise Man who advocates most enthusiastically for total transparency and digital interconnectedness. The octopus, then, symbolizes both Bailey in particular and the culture of social networking in general. In the end, the octopus is eaten by a shark: this symbolically suggests that the idealism of Bailey’s philosophy of transparency is not strong enough to preserve itself in the face of ruthless power.

The Octopus Quotes in The Circle

The The Circle quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Octopus. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Circle published in 2014.
Book Two, part 3 Quotes

He couldn't get enough of the shark, its anxious circling.

"Until next time," Stenton said finally. He nodded to Mae, and then to her watchers, who were now one hundred million, many of them terrified, many more in awe and wanting more of the same.

Related Characters: Tom Stenton (speaker), Mae Holland
Related Symbols: The Octopus, The Seahorse, The Shark
Page Number: 482
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Octopus Symbol Timeline in The Circle

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Octopus appears in The Circle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book Two, part 3
Social Networking and the Internet Theme Icon
Totalitarianism and Indoctrination Theme Icon
Utopianism and Perfection Theme Icon
...explains that Stenton has assembled three majestic animals together in the aquarium: a shark, an octopus, and a seahorse. This is the first time, she continues, that the three animals are... (full context)
Social Networking and the Internet Theme Icon
Totalitarianism and Indoctrination Theme Icon
Utopianism and Perfection Theme Icon
Bailey points to the octopus, which is about to be introduced to the tank, and he notes that the octopus... (full context)
Social Networking and the Internet Theme Icon
Totalitarianism and Indoctrination Theme Icon
Utopianism and Perfection Theme Icon
Next, the marine biologist introduces the octopus into the tank. The octopus floats around the tank, touching the seaweed and coral, wanting... (full context)
Social Networking and the Internet Theme Icon
Utopianism and Perfection Theme Icon
The shark swims toward the octopus and tears it apart. Bailey whimpers in sadness, but Stenton looks at the shark with... (full context)