The Night Circus

by

Erin Morgenstern

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The Night Circus: Part 5: Divination Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Poppet is at Chandresh’s house in London, and when he opens the door, he notes that she is bigger than the last time he saw her, and there were two of them. Poppet explains that Widget is in France as she follows him inside. The house is in disarray, and not quite as grand as she remembers it from her childhood. He asks why she is there, and she asks for a favor. She would like him to sign over ownership of the circus. He responds that it was never his in the first place, but she disagrees, because it was his idea.
The final part of the novel deals with the aftermath of Celia and Marco’s escape from the competition. The circus is no longer simply a venue for their magical rivalry, and now Poppet, Widget, and Bailey are free to take it in any direction they choose. But first, they must tie up loose ends, especially with the original organizers like Chandresh.
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Chandresh looks at the list of names, noting Mr. Barris and Lainie Burgess, and he asks who Mr. Clarke is, and Poppet explains that he is a dear friend who will take excellent care of the circus. He signs the document, and as Poppet blows on the ink to dry it, she thanks him. He then walks over to a set of blueprints covering his walls and windows, telling Poppet that he doesn’t know what to do with them anymore. They are renovations to the house, but they do not fit together. Poppet rearranges the blueprints until they make sense, telling him that it is a museum, and that it is not the building they are in, but a new one.
Poppet would like Chandresh to relinquish control over the circus, although he feels that he hardly controlled it in the first place. Chandresh is happy to see that Mr. Barris and Lainie Burgess will still be involved, and signs it over willingly. He has clearly lost his fire and focus, brought down by the weight of all of the secrets and lies involved in the circus and the competition. He cannot even read blueprints without help from Poppet.
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As they look through the blueprints, Chandresh starts to call for Marco. He tells Poppet that his assistant just left one day and did not come back, not even leaving a note behind. Poppet responds that she believes his departure was not planned, and that he most likely regrets not being able to finish things up with Chandresh. Chandresh asks why Marco left, and Poppet replies that he left to be with Celia, which makes Chandresh happy. He proposes a toast, but he doesn’t have any champagne.
Chandresh’s memory has also been severely affected by his many years working with the circus, and still calls for Marco from time to time. When Poppet explains—in a very basic way, excluding all references to magic—why Marco did not come back, Chandresh is happy for him, because as much as he liked Marco, he knew that he was in love with Celia.
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Instead, Chandresh decides to dedicate a room of the museum to them, and they find a room with round walls and a small koi pond in the center. He asks what is in Poppet’s bag, and she tells him she brought him a present. She pulls out a small black-and-white kitten named Ara. As he plays with the kitten, she tells him that she is not going to give him his memory back, and he asks what she is talking about. She tells him not to mind her, and leans over and kisses him on the cheek. As her lips touch him, he suddenly feels better than he has in years, and his mind clears. The two spend hours working on the blueprints, with Ara playing by their side.
With Chandresh signing over the rights to the circus, a new era has dawned, and Poppet makes the bold decision to clear Chandresh’s memory, healing him and allowing him to focus on other projects, as he did before the circus. She also gives him a kitten to play with, just as he used to do for her when she was young. This signals a significant turning of the tables for these two, as Poppet is now a responsible adult, and Chandresh is past his prime and in need of comfort and support from her.
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Widget is in Paris with Mr. A.H., who is talking about the nature of stories. He sadly notes that stories have changed: there are no more battles between good and evil, no quests with clear goals and happy endings, and now all the stories overlap and blur. Widget has a brief conversation with the waiter in French, and Mr. A.H. asks how many languages Widget speaks, but Widget cannot remember exactly. He tells him that Celia helped him learn some of the patterns, and Mr. A.H. says he hopes she was a better teacher than her father, Hector. Widget responds that she and her father are very different people, from what he hears, and he comments that Celia has never forced him or Poppet into absurd competitions.
Meanwhile, in Paris, Widget’s conversation with Mr. A.H. has a very different tone: the old magician is pontificating about the changing ways of the world. It will take much more work for Widget to convince Mr. A.H. to sign away his rights to the circus, despite the fact that the man only valued it as a venue for the competition. Mr. A.H. is also curious about Celia and Marco, because he has no contact with them now. Widget’s response to Mr. A.H.—that Celia has never forced the twins to compete against one another—is an apt insult to the man.
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Mr. A.H. tells Widget that, once upon a time, he and his student had a difference of opinion about the ways of the world, and he developed his own methods and began teaching them. They began to pit their respective students against one another, and over time the competitions became more complex. This most recent one was interesting, he notes, and Celia found a clever way to get them out of it. He misses his student, however, and notes that Marco was possibly the best student he ever had. Widget asks if he thinks Marco is dead, and Mr. A.H. asks if Widget thinks Marco is alive. Widget tells him that he knows Marco is not dead, just as he knows that Hector is not dead either, and is standing at the window near them.
Finally, however, Mr. A.H. is interested in talking about the competition, and gives Widget some background information that even Marco and Celia never knew. For example, Hector Bowen was once Mr. A.H.’s student, and the rivalry was born of a disagreement between them. When he talks about Celia’s magic trick, he sounds proud of her creativity and magical abilities, and even admits that Marco was one of his best students. This is a side of Mr. A.H. that was inaccessible to Marco when he was his student.
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Widget explains to Mr. A.H. that Marco and Celia are not dead, and they are inside of the circus. When Widget describes this as “marvelous,” Mr. A.H. asks if he really considers imprisonment to be “marvelous”; Widget replies that Marco and Celia are together and “are confined within a space” that will “grow and change around them.” Marco has been teaching Widget his illusion technique—and Widget adds that Marco thought of Mr. A.H. as a father. Mr. A.H. asks if Marco told Widget that, and Widget replies that Marco didn’t use any words, but he let Widget read him. Marco also forgives Mr. A.H. for what he did, because he now has Celia, thanks to the competition.
When Widget describes Celia and Marco’s situation in glowing terms, Mr. A.H. recoils at the idea of being imprisoned. For him, freedom and control are of the utmost importance, while Celia and Marco are mainly concerned with being surrounded by people they love. This reinforces the differences between these characters, and the reasons why they were unable to communicate effectively, despite the fact that they truly did love each other.
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Mr. A.H. comments that perhaps he chose too well, that they were too well matched, and now they can never be separated. Widget sees that as unromantic, and Mr. A.H. notes that he was romantic in his youth, but that was a long time ago. Widget mentions that Mr. A.H. has no shadow, and he replies that not many people notice that. Widget asks if Mr. A.H. is going to end up like Hector, and he responds that he hopes not—he would like to be able to accept the inevitability of mortality, just as he hopes Celia and Marco will.
Mr. A.H.’s desire for freedom and control may be linked to his advanced age, as he has outlived so many people that he is no longer able to maintain deep personal connections and shuns the idea of romantic entanglements. This would explain his hope that he, Hector, Celia, and Marco are all able to find refuge in mortality at some point.
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Widget asks Mr. A.H. if magic is enough to live for, and he responds that what most people see is not magic, because most people have no idea of what is possible in the world and wouldn’t listen if someone attempted to explain it to them anyway. Widget argues that some people can be enlightened, and Mr. A.H. agrees, but notes that very few people are open to learning, or have natural access like Poppet and Widget. Then he asks what Widget does with his talent, and Widget informs him that he tells stories. When Widget says that this is not important and not why he is visiting, Mr. A.H. interrupts him to say that it is important, that there may be a story that takes up residence in someone’s soul, or changes them in some way, and that is a kind of magic.
Mr. A.H. and Widget get into a profound conversation about the value of magic, and Mr. A.H.’s first concern is that most people are not clued in to the magic in the world around them, or open to the possibilities that are beyond their understanding. This is what sets Bailey apart: he is open to what he does not yet understand, and that has gained him access to the circus and the magic behind it. And when Widget describes his own powers in terms of storytelling, Mr. A.H. sees universal value in that, as well.
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Widget accuses Mr. A.H. of trying to distract him, and he asks if the game is finished. Mr. A.H. says that it has not been properly completed due to unforeseen circumstances. Then Widget says that he has come to tie up loose ends and take over the circus. Mr. A.H. notes that it is not that simple, and that Widget would probably be better off letting it “fade away,” but Widget is adamant. Widget feels that Mr. A.H. owes it to the circus, since he put them all at risk for a simple bet with Hector Bowen. Mr. A.H. acknowledges the validity of the argument, but says he owes Widget nothing. Widget asks him to name his price, then, and Mr. A.H. just wants a story from him. Widget takes a sip of wine and begins his story: “The circus arrives without warning.”
Although their conversation is quite interesting, Widget has come to visit Mr. A.H. for a very specific reason, and does not want to lose sight of that. In response to Widget’s request to take over the circus, Mr. A.H. suggests that he let the endeavor die off, showing how little he knows about the true value of the circus and its impact on people around the world. Finally, Mr. A.H. agrees to sell the circus to Widget for a story—and the story that Widget chooses to tell is The Night Circus, beginning with the first line of the novel.
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In the future, someone roams the circus in the pre-dawn hours, wondering how to spend the final moments before closing. Turning to look at the clock, they notice beneath it there is a memorial plaque, with the names of Friederick Stefan Thiessen and Chandresh Christophe Lefevre. Someone is watching from the ticket booth, and she hands the person a business card with The Cirque des Rêves on one side and Mr. Bailey Alden Clarke, Proprietor on the back, along with his email address. The person thanks the woman and walks towards the gates. Before leaving, they turn back to the ticket booth, but it is closed, with the grate pulled down over it. They walk out onto the grass, wondering which side of the fence is the dream.
This final passage serves as an epilogue, and although there is no specific time marker for this section, the fact that the proprietor’s email address is given suggests that it is set in the late 20th century, or possibly even the 21st. Yet Bailey Clarke is still in charge of the circus, thus suggesting that he has become immortal or that his lifespan is linked to that of the circus. The unnamed character prepares to leave the circus, reflecting on the profound aesthetic experience it has provided.
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