Perspectives

Dystopian fiction

The Circle by Dave Eggers is an example of dystopian fiction. Dystopian fiction generally offers an imaginary vision of the future, characterized by an oppressive social system, widespread poverty and persecution, the use of surveillance and fear tactics to control the population, and a degraded environment. 

The Circle is somewhat different from this general definition, because on the surface everything seems positive on the Circle campus, and poverty and persecution do not initially appear to be widespread issues. However, as the story progresses, we begin to see how the Circle is increasingly using surveillance to control the population, eroding individual rights to privacy, and oppressing individuality and free speech. 

Dystopian societies often have parallels to trends in contemporary society and often act as a warning against where those trends and ways of thinking might lead. The Circle, for example, has clear parallels with the dominance of a small number of huge technology companies, such as Facebook and Google. These companies control some of the most popular online channels of communication and their platforms have been shown to significantly influence fundamental functions of society such as how people vote in elections. 

Dystopian novels often explore how populations can be brainwashed and controlled. For example, in both The Handmaid’s Tale and in George Orwell’s famous 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, citizens are constantly watched and they are kept in terror of the secret police who use torture to break any signs of resistance. In The Circle, constant public surveillance is similarly used as a tool to brainwash the employees of the Circle and the people who use their product...

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