Circe Novel Summary and Theme

 Circe Novel Summary and Theme

The world seems stacked against Circe from the start. No one expected much of the dime-a-dozen nymph, named “hawk” for her golden eyes and human voice. She grows up in a cold, disinterested home. Different sprites, particularly her kin, mock her persistently, never permitting her to track down any similarity to having a place. At the point when her uncle, the Titan Prometheus, is whipped before different divine beings, Circe's delicate heart is disheartened where the others are noxiously entranced. In bringing him help, she finds an extraordinary reality: She doesn't need to continue in that frame of mind of different divine beings. Much to her dismay that she will proceed to separate herself from them more than anybody previously.

As the years wear on, Circe meets a youthful human. Frantic for friendship, she rapidly experiences passionate feelings. His mortality, nonetheless, looms over her head like a guillotine — for all she cherishes him, he will one day kick the bucket and let her be once more. Declining to acknowledge this, Circe looks for pharmaka, a spice supplied with enchanted properties. Utilizing it, she changes her future darling into a divine being, yet this doesn't proclaim her cheerful closure as expected. All things considered, he rejects her for a lovely sprite named Scylla. In her energetic desire, Circe chooses to move Scylla, for clearly then she will wed her dearest and live cheerfully ever later. Subsequent to utilizing the pharmaka on Scylla, Circe tracks down not marriage but rather culpability — Scylla has been changed into a six-headed beast that devours mortal tissue.

At the point when the culpability ridden Circe admits her wrongdoings, her not entirely set in stone to be pharmakeia — black magic — which goes past even the divine beings' cutoff points. Dreading what they have zero control over, the divine beings choose to banish Circe on the desolate island of Aiaia forever. There Circe makes her mark, turning into a strong witch, yet life is never basic, not in any event, for a goddess with enchantment readily available.

North of millennia, Circe meets many figures of legend — Daedalus, Ariadne, the Minotaur, Medea, Jason, and Odysseus. Odysseus, be that as it may, becomes a name, yet her sweetheart and dear companion. In Mill operator's reconsidering, the story of the resentful witch and the splendid legend is rethought as a confounded and sympathetic — yet ill-fated — romance. In any case, in any event, when Odysseus passes on the island to get back to his better half and youngster, he leaves Circe with a kid and the expectation that her dejection is finishing.

From her adoration for her youngster, Circe tracks down the solidarity to achieve accomplishments that frustrated all others before her, yet she likewise learns the genuine profundities of dread. Yet again her youngster is mortal and defenseless, and even he will let her be the point at which he makes his unavoidable excursion to the hidden world. In spite of this, Circe substantiates herself a power past retribution, strong and determined to the point of effectively standing toeing to-toeing with the more noteworthy divine beings to safeguard her child.

Circe follows the goddess' phenomenal life as she develops and changes through torment, self-recrimination, groundbreaking connections, and the persevering walk of time. She develops from an unfortunate yet empathetic fairy to an almighty witch. Maybe more prominent than all of this, Circe in the end tracks down it inside herself to challenge the divine beings as well as to leave them behind perpetually, to carry on with the existence she generally needed encompassed by the affection she was constantly denied.

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Circe Character Analysis


Circe, a nymph and the novel’s protagonist, is the daughter of the Titan Helios and a naiad, Perse. Odysseus once said of her that “he had never met a god who enjoyed their divinity less” (380), an observation that’s upheld by her disdain for the cruel immortals. Frequently painted as sensitive and empathetic to the pain of others, particularly of mortals, Circe is unlike the other gods. Over time, she discovers that she is a witch capable of changing the world by drawing out the magical properties of herbs. In youthful pride, she transforms her would-be lover into a god and the nymph he chooses over her into a monster. After confessing her misdeeds, she is exiled on the island of Aiaia. Over thousands of years, she masters her craft, struggles with monsters, makes enemies, falls in love, suffers heartbreak and abuse, raises a child, and chooses her own destiny.


The strongest Titan alive and god of the sun, Helios sided with Zeus during the great war and keeps a tenuous peace with the Olympians, though he is not fully averse to an uprising. Austere, proud, and commanding, Helios tolerates no perceived disrespect—“however gold he shies, do not forget his fire” (6). His children tend to share his golden appearance and gifts of prophecy. His children by Perse become the first witches.


Beautiful and cruel, Pasiphaë is sister to Circe and queen of Crete. Her magic is focused on poisons, though she also curses her husband so that all other women he has sex with die grotesque deaths. To rise to further preeminence, Pasiphaë has sex with a sacred white bull and gives birth to the Minotaur. She is also mother to many mortals, including the kind-hearted dancer Ariadne.


Clever and perceptive, Aeëtes was raised by Circe (his sister) and was her closest companion in youth. However, this does not stop him from leaving when Helios grants him his own kingdom called Colchis. There, he works his magic, achieving powers beyond the abilities of the gods. When he hears of Circe’s transformations, he returns to announce the skills of his siblings and the rise of pharmakeia to demonstrate his own power. He fathers at least two children, including the witch Medea.


Daedalus is a genius inventor serving Pasiphaë and Minos in Crete, unable to leave while they hold his son, Icarus, hostage. He is considered to be “one of the wonders of the mortal world, a craftsman almost equal to a god” (33). An unwitting conspirator in the birth of the Minotaur, he creates a labyrinth to contain it. He finds a kindred spirit in Circe and becomes her lover for a time, giving her a parting gift of a unique loom that she treasures for centuries.


A famous warrior prince known for his involvement in the Trojan War, Odysseus is charming, perceptive, prideful, and volatile. He is a descendant of Hermes and finds his way to Aiaia, where he becomes Circe’s lover and unknowingly fathers a child before returning to his wife and son in Ithaca. Athena is his patron goddess.


The child of Circe and Odysseus, Telegonus is a demigod with captivating charisma and naïve optimism. Sheltered from painful truths and the realities of danger by his mother and her witchcraft, Telegonus is confident in all he does.


Telemachus is the son of Odysseus and his wife, Penelope. Unlike his father, Telemachus is simple, speaking and acting in direct accordance with his thoughts without artifice. This does not mean he is unintelligent—he is clever and skilled in trades from goat herding and sailing to craftsmanship.

Circe Themes


One of the book’s main themes is the concept of power, which begs the question, what is true power? The most obvious answers are the gods’ power, political/social power, and magical power, but identifying “true power” from these options is not so simple. The gods’ power can be overcome by magic, as seen through Aeëtes’s ability to heal Circe from Helios’s wrath. It can also be circumvented by political power, as proven by Circe’s extortion of her father’s assistance as well as Athena’s unwillingness to risk war with the Titans by killing Circe. However, political power does not always triumph over witchcraft, as shown by Helios’s fear of Aeëtes’s magic and Pasiphaë’s control over her husband. Still, magical power does not stop Circe’s exile or Medea’s divorce.

Throughout the book, these different types of power are often in contrast. When a character finally achieves one kind of power, they discover that they are still at the mercy of another. Inherently lacking political power as a woman and a nymph, Pasiphaë uses her magical power to threaten her husband so she can live in relative safety. Similarly, Medea lacks the political power to create a life of her choosing. Her magic enables her to escape with Jason, thwarting her impending marriage to a sadistic uncle, but Medea’s magical power cannot buy the love of her husband or his people, and her life crumbles before their political strength. Daedalus’s genius allows him to build a labyrinth that can contain a terrible monster, but his love for his son traps him in Crete. Circe becomes unquestionably powerful, developing into twice the witch her sister is, one strong enough to challenge even Aeëtes, but she has no control over her exile. She cannot choose where to go without invoking the wrath of the gods.

Through this tale, power is presented less as a hammer and more as a set of lockpicks—each requiring its own technique which may or may not work depending on the lock in question. Ultimately, power is generally defined as the ability to cause change to one’s own benefit, so it must be determined by victory or advantage. It then follows that the most effective power depends on the situation and perspective, on what would be considered victory.

This is not as black and white as it might appear: Was Prometheus defeated when sentenced to torture, or was he victorious in his refusal to be selfish like the other gods? Was Pasiphaë victorious in keeping her husband under threat of her poisons, or did she only mitigate her suffering, still unable to choose a decent husband or even one at all? Did Daedalus conquer Pasiphaë’s political power by escaping Crete, or did she win by ensuring his only means of escape would cost his son’s life—the thing he held most dear in the world? When Circe finally takes control of her life, turning herself mortal, does she win, or do the gods, who gain a future without her troublesome existence?

The question of victory is subjective, and so is the question of power. What the book does make clear is that power comes in many forms, but rarely several at once, and that a single type of power may not be enough.


The story is littered with casual, pervasive misogyny, from the sailors who balk at the instructions of a woman, even if she is a goddess, to the expectation that unruly daughters be punished (but never sons), to the regular immortalization of female suffering and supposed weakness in song. As Circe puts it, “humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep” (206).

This pattern applies especially to nymphs, who are regarded as property to be “traded for something better” (5), such as wealth through marriage. Among nymphs, nothing was considered more common than rape, whether by an uncle who would later pay her father for the privilege—“Honor on all sides” (191)—or by a mortal she could not outrun. Unfortunately, that expectation is fulfilled when a guest rapes Circe in her own home. Afterward, she finds control by re-enacting her rape with a different ending—transforming her would-be attackers into pigs. When the innumerable sailors come into her home and drink her wine, she does not hide her divinity or the wolves at her hearth, but it does not matter whether she’s mortal or not, only that she is “alone and a woman” (193). Both mortal men and gods view nymphs (and mortal women) in the same degrading and dehumanizing way. The message is clear: “Brides, nymphs were called, but that is not really how the world saw us. We were an endless feast laid out upon a table, beautiful and renewing. And so very bad at getting away” (195).


Circe's empathy separates her all along. Aside from Prometheus, different immortals appear to be unequipped for certifiable compassion or even compassion. Aeëtes, whom Circe revered and spoiled as a youngster, really focuses just on his own power and inheritance. Indeed, even Athena, apparently awesome of the divine beings, regards youngsters like they are exchangeable. This hardness is likewise observable in Glaucos' conduct after he turns into a divine being. He rapidly he goes from commending Circe with timid confirmations of deference — "I have never known such something wondrous in for my entire life as you" (38) — to declining to wed her when there are prettier sprites about. As Circe puts it, "You can train a snake to eat from your hands, yet you can't remove the amount it gets a kick out of the chance to chomp" (97).

Rather than empathy or even fortitude, the divine beings express shameless perversion and joy during Prometheus' whipping — "Somebody pushed at my back, pursuing for a superior view" (19) — and downplay Scylla's distortion for their entertainment — "I wish I'd seen it! Might you at any point envision?" (59). The text recommends this inclination for mercilessness originates from their interminability. Though people should work for their greatness, the divine beings are brought into the world with it, "so they track down their popularity by demonstrating what they can damage" (135). The inborn impediments and delicacy of mortal life are bound to bring about consideration. Circe notes, "Assuming there was one thing I knew in all the world, it was that there was no leniency among divine beings" (247). Dissimilar to different feelings divided among humans and divine beings — like resentment, desire, rout, and narcissism — responsibility and regret expect somebody to think often about what their activities mean for other people. This, the divine beings care very little about.

In contrast to different divine beings, Circe feels her culpability as well as possesses it. This is first shown when she envisions the cosmologists who might be killed for Helios' entertainment. She additionally feels responsibility for neglecting to help Prometheus past contribution him nectar and discussion. Her most profound lament is changing Scylla into a beast. Circe assumes liability not just for the abomination of the actual demonstration yet in addition for the endless lives Scylla claims throughout the long term. Circe ultimately transforms Scylla into stone to end her affliction and forestall more mariners' demises. At the point when Telemachus attempts to comfort Circe by excusing her obligation, she makes sense of that this culpability is which isolates her from different divine beings who feel no regret for their savageries. She demands, "Don't attempt to take my lament from me" (374).


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