The Night Circus

by

Erin Morgenstern

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Rings Symbol Icon

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

The The Night Circus quotes below all refer to the symbol of Rings. 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:
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor edition of The Night Circus published in 2012.
Part 1: Primordium Quotes

“What am I bound to?”

“An obligation you already had, and a person you will not meet for some time.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Alexander / Mr. A.H. (speaker)
Related Symbols: Rings
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: Intersections Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Celia Bowen (speaker), Marco Alisdair (speaker), Hector Bowen / Prospero the Enchanter
Related Symbols: Rings
Page Number: 348
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Night Circus LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Night Circus PDF

Rings Symbol Timeline in The Night Circus

The timeline below shows where the symbol Rings appears in The Night Circus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Primordium
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...agree to a competition, pitting Celia against the competitor of Alexander’s choosing. Alexander places a ring on Celia’s finger, which shrinks and burns itself into her finger, leaving a scar. (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...and studies from books and lectures, sometimes leaving the house to visit museums and libraries during off-hours, and occasionally to attend magic shows. Finally, one day the man gives the boy... (full context)
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...item that is important to her, and then reads her mind—she is thinking of a ring, an engagement ring from an arranged marriage that she managed to escape in Barcelona. Their... (full context)
Part 3: Intersections
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...fingers of Marco’s right hand, and he reveals the scar on his finger from the ring Mr. A.H. placed there when Marco was fourteen, with an inscription he doesn’t remember. Celia... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Marco asks Celia if Mr. A.H. gave the ring and scar to her, and she says yes, when she was only six years old.... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...not let her go, no matter who wins the competition, and then he kisses the ring on her finger. (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...when he wakes up, Celia is gone. It is dawn, and she has left her ring on the mantel, which he slips onto his pinky finger. He only notices later that... (full context)
Part 4: Incendiary
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...as the day dawns, she lets him sleep and gets dressed quietly. She takes her ring off and puts it on the mantel, and as she puts on her coat, she... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...Tsukiko’s scar, and the contortionist lowers the neckline of her kimono to reveal a faded ring-shaped scar on the nape of her neck, in between various tattoos. She tells Celia that... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...he is not willing to settle for a verbal agreement. Marco takes off his silver ring, passes a candle along it until it is white hot, and places it in his... (full context)