In The Night Circus, rings symbolize commitment, enclosure, and infinite connection. When Mr. A.H. agrees to the new round of competition, he gives Celia a ring that burns itself into her finger, symbolizing a commitment that cannot be discarded as easily as a piece of jewelry. After the announcement of her father’s death, when Celia receives marriage proposals from fellow magicians, she notes to herself that she is already married, “twisting the ring on her right hand that covers an old, distinctive scar.” She later finds that Marco has the same scar, which he received when he was fourteen. When they imagine abandoning the competition or running away together, their scars burn in shocking pain, reminding them of their lifelong obligation to a game that is designed to end one of their lives.
Isobel Martin also wore a ring, but removed it and sold it before arriving in London and meeting Marco. Like Celia and Marco, Isobel was forced into a commitment without her consent, but she managed to escape and find her freedom. Isobel’s ring was from an arranged marriage, and one that likely would not have made her happy, as her betrothed “looked for the ring longer than he looked for me,” according to Isobel. Her freedom stands in contrast to the magical bond linking Celia and Marco to the competition and to one another.
Not all of the rings in the novel carry the same negative connotations, however. As Friedrick Thiessen explains, the word circus is derived “from the Greek kirkos meaning circle, or ring.” Le Cirque des Rêves is designed as a series of intersecting circles, “contained within a circular fence. Looping and continuous.” These rings provide a welcoming embrace, and a safe enclosure from the outside world.
Rings Quotes in The Night Circus
“Are you looking for this? It was made by a ring when I was fourteen. It said something in Latin, but I don’t know what it was.”
“Esse quam videri. To be, rather than to seem. It’s the Bowen family motto. My father was very fond of engraving it on things. I’m not entirely sure he appreciated the irony.”