The Night Circus

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The Night Circus

A major theme interwoven throughout the book is free will. Both Celia and Marco are pitted against one another in a sinister contest to the death, and subsequently, their whole lives are spent training to defeat their opponent. They are viewed as pawns on a chessboard, with their teachers watching their every step to make sure they don't mess up. Celia spends her entire life with her father at her side even after his death, while Marco grows up isolated and surrounding by books. The two never experience free will in their lives until after falling in love with one another. Realizing the importance of free will, Celia gives Bailey a choice even though his answer could mean the end of not only her and Marco’s lives, but all of the circus members' lives as well.Another important theme is sacrifice. In order to gain something, one has to lose something in return. Many of the major characters in the book experience moments in their lives where they had to sacrifice something in order to preserve something else. For one, both Celia and Marco sacrifice their physical forms so that they could be together. Another example is Bailey, who had to leave behind his former way of life after Poppet asks him to come with them in the circus. In the end, Bailey has to make another great sacrifice by becoming the circus’ manager and taking on the burden of operating it in order to save the lives of his friends.

While there is a whole cast of main characters, the storyline most directly follows the lives of young magicians Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair. The story also contains an interwoven storyline centering on Bailey Clarke.1. Celia Bowen: She is five years old at the beginning of the book and 35 at the story’s end. She is a strong character lead, having endured her father’s ruthless training methods for countless years. She is smart and has mastered the magic of manipulating physical objects. Another example of her ingenuity is when she found a way out of the contest by connecting her and Marco's souls to the circus. Additionally, Celia has somewhat of a temper, and when she loses control, the objects around her tend to shatter. She is described as very beautiful, with Marco calling her radiant upon first seeing her. Lastly, she never gives up, such as in the case when she refused to accept Marco’s death in order to end the game.2. Marco Alisdair: He is nine at the story’s beginning and 39 at the novel’s end. Marco starts out the book as an orphan living in an orphanage before becoming Mr. A.H.’s protégé. He later became Chandresh’s assistant in order to be closer to the circus. Marco can be described as a somewhat contrary character. To most people, he is very nice and friendly, as described as such by multiple characters. However, at times, his ruthless side shines through such as in the case when he erases Chandresh’s memories when the producer discovered the true intention behind the circus. Additioally, Marco is an expert at illusionary magic, favoring illusions over physical objects. At times, he can also be seen as manipulative since he only dated Isobel because she had connections to the circus and didn’t tell her he loved Celia until almost a decade later. Lastly, Marco tends to be withdrawn due to his childhood spent surrounding by books in isolation.3. Bailey Clarke: The story begins with Bailey as an 11-year-old boy and ends with him being 17 years old. Bailey is quiet and withdrawn, not having many friends due to his sister’s dominant nature and her tendency to ostracize him. He feels an instant connection with Le Cirque des Rêves and cannot get it out of his mind for many years following. For most of the book, he is dissatisfied with living the life of a farmer, and he wonders if that's all he’s meant to do in life. Furthermore, Bailey is both brave and selfless such as in the case when he decides to take on the incredible burden of continuing the circus alone so that he can save his friends. Another example of his bravery is when he leaves his former way of life behind so that he can go with the Murray twins with the circus.

The setting, while initially in Victorian Era London, follows the path of Le Cirque des Rêves for most of the story. The circus does not follow any direct path, instead seeming to go randomly to different locations. The years span from 1873 to 1903.

If I had to rate this book, I believe it is a solid four out of five stars. It was an enthralling read from start to finish, with no boring parts throughout the entire duration of the novel. I especially enjoyed reading from different characters’ perspectives, since Erin Morgenstern did an excellent job of creating completely unique people that differed vastly from one another. Moreover, the plotline was intriguing, since I was unsure of how the conflicts would be resolved at the story’s end. To my delight, Erin Morgenstern solved all the major problems in a completely unexpected way. In summation, The Night Circus was an interesting read that I would highly recommend to readers who enjoy intense storylines and character development. The only reason I would not rate it five stars is because the descriptions of scenes could sometimes be drawn out or verbose.

Plot

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Haley NguyenELA Period 5

Characters

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Setting

Theme

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not…”Long ago, a magician and his student argued over which type of magic was the most powerful. The former stated that anyone could become a formidable magician with enough hard work, while his student proclaimed that those born with innate abilities would always dominate those who do not. The argument, which started out small, soon became something much more sinister. The two magicians decided to each pit one student against the other to see who would end up victorious. The contestants would be two young aspirants who complemented one another, with one being trained by the teacher—who goes by the pseudonym Mr. A.H., and the other by the magician's student who took on the stage name Prospero the Enchanter. And so the contests began. In Victorian Era London many years later, a young girl is left abandoned at the doorstep of her father, the eminent magician Prospero the Enchanter. Prospero immediately realizes that his daughter, whose name is Celia Bowen, has inherent magic running through her veins. Seizing his chance, he calls for another contest, still resentful for having lost the last one that ended many years previous. Mr. A.H. agrees and begins his training of a young orphan named Marco. For many years, both Celia and Marco train for a contest that would ultimately decide their fate. However, they are never told the specifics of the challenge, only knowing that it will end when their opponent dies. Celia, under her father’s ruthless training methods, thrives in the use of physical magic. Her father, knowing his time is near, dies but is revived as a ghost and continues her training. Marco, in contrast, grows up surrounded by books and learns the art of illusionary magic. He even becomes infatuated with a fortuneteller named Isobel, who possesses some magic of her own. After a decade of arduous preparation, the competitors are deemed ready and the deadly contest begins. To make the showcase more interesting, the contest takes place at the scene of a renowned circus. Le Cirque des Rêves or the Circus of Dreams has gained notoriety around the world since it only opens at nighttime and doesn’t stay in one place too long at any given time. Not only that, but the circus is legendary for its ethereal acts that seem, even to the keenest of eyes, almost magical. Celia is hired as an illusionist for the circus, while Marco remains behind the scenes working as the assistant to the producer of the circus, Chandresh Lefevre. Marco immediately realizes that his opponent is to be Celia, while Celia herself remains in the dark until many years later. The rules of the contest still remain mysterious, with the only concrete detail given to them being that they must showcase their talents in the midst of the circus. Under guise of Le Cirque des Rêves, both Marco and Celia use their magic to create enchanted tents that run on their energy. On opening night, Marco ties the center bonfire to the circus, causing both the circus and his magic to become completely intertwined. Celia, on the other hand, creates a carousel made of real mythological characters such as sphinxes. Amazed by her power, Marco then creates a garden completely incased in ice, while Celia responds by making a wishing tree that never ceases to burn. They continue this dangerous dance for many years, each of their creations drawing off one another, and after Celia finally realizes the identity of her opponent, they fall in love. However, as they use more and more of their power and fall headfirst into love, strange things start happening in the circus. For one, Widget and Poppet Murray—twins born on the circus’ opening night, seem to have developed unique talents that can only be described as inhuman. A moving train hits one of the original founders of the circus, Tara Burgess, when she asks one too many questions. The contortionist can bend her body in unimaginable shapes, as if there were simply no bones in there at all. And lastly, the producer appears to be having memory problems since his last visit to Marco’s office. But everything changes when Isobel, who was hired as a fortuneteller for the circus, releases her protection spell from the circus after Marco tells her he is in love with Celia. Meanwhile, Bailey Clarke, a young boy who lives an ordinary life in the countryside, has his whole life changed after attending Le Cirque des Rêves. He feels an instant connection to both the Murray twins and the circus, as if drawn by some invisible force. Yet when Poppet envisions him coming with them before they leave, Bailey’s whole life is turned upside down. After missing the circus’ train, he is left stranded with no home, no money, and no way to contact the Murray twins. Poppet, thinking that Bailey decided not to come with them, suddenly has an intense vision of the circus burning down and Bailey arriving in the aftermath. After over a decade of playing the deadly game, Celia wants to find a way to end the contest so that she can be with Marco. Her father, still haunting her as a ghost, says there is no such way without one of them dying. Refusing to admit defeat, she invites Mr. A.H. to the circus to ask him to end the contest. He refuses, but not after dropping the hint that the last contest winner was Tsukiko, the contortionist of the circus. Upon confronting Tsukiko, Celia is told the true circumstances surrounding the enigmatic contest. For all this time, she believed that the game simply ended when one died since it was a test of both strength and power. Tsukiko, however, tells her that she is wrong and that this is not merely a test of power, but one of endurance as well. She says that the contest cannot end until one of them completely depletes their magic and dies of exhaustion, which could take many years. Celia, disbelieving, says there must be some other way to save both her and Marco. That is when Tsukiko tells her the story of her own contest. Upon completion, she informs Celia that the reason the game is so cruel is not because one dies at the end, but rather, because one has to live and carry the heavy burden of surviving. She says that since the competitors are chosen to complement each other in every sense of the word, it is only natural for them to develop feelings for one another. Tsukiko herself fell in love with her competitor, a young girl the same age as she was at the time. Tsukiko finishes the story by telling Celia that there is no loophole and that she must accept the fact that one of them must die while the other remains alive. Celia refuses to accept her fate. With time having run out, Tsukiko recognizes that she must finish the contest by killing Marco since he is the weaker opponent. She invites him to the circus and once he arrives, Tsukiko destroys the bonfire in which he made his first creation. It is revealed that not only did Marco connect the circus to the bonfire, but he also unintentionally connected his lifeline to it as well. The circus begins to burn down. Celia, in the midst of the chaos, realizes that Marco is going to die and makes one last desperate attempt to save him. She reveals to him how her father really died and the reason behind how he is able to continue living on as a ghost. She informs Marco that her father wished to remove his soul from the physical world so that he would not be tied down by death, but he was unsuccessful and became a wandering ghost instead. He failed since he was not connected to a lifeline. Celia, in turn, states that she is more powerful than her father ever was and that if she tries, she believes she can do what her father never could and cheat death. Celia then removes both of their souls from the physical world before re-forming them back again, using the circus as a lifeline. She is successful, but the circus, having been working only due to their magical energies, freezes, with all the inhabitants in it becoming immobile. Celia tells Marco that since they are gone and their energies are not intertwined, the circus will remain frozen. The only way it can be revived is for someone to take up the burden of controlling the circus that they left behind. She admits to Marco that now all they can do is wait. Around the same time, Bailey, having been chasing the circus for some time, finally arrives only to find it frozen and smelling of burned smoke. He walks past a tent and sees the Murray twins frozen in time along with the other circus members. As he watches, their figures gradually become more blurred, as if their lives were slowly being drained out of them. Startled, Bailey backs away and accidentally bumps into the bonfire. There, he meets Celia. She admits that Poppet envisioned that he would come and that he is the last hope of the circus ever coming back to life. Celia gives Bailey the choice to take up the incredible burden of controlling the circus. She admits that if he agrees, his life will be forever changed and the burden will be great. Yet if he does not take it, the Murray twins, along with all the other circus members, will die. She gives him a choice, something she nor Marco never had. Bailey, determined to save the twins, decides to take on the burden. After his decision, the circus comes back to life and Celia and Marco disappear temporarily. One year later and Le Cirque des Rêves is the most famous circus in the entire world and run under manager Bailey Clarke. Widget Murray is eating lunch with Mr. A.H. The latter asks Widget if he knows what happened to Marco. Widget, in response, discloses that Celia and Marco are not dead but not exactly alive either. Their lifelines are connected to the circus, and they can only take on a physical state on the circus grounds. Widget declares that Celia found a way out of the contest and pleads to Mr. A.H. to stop creating contests. Mr. A.H., after much thought, says he will on one condition. He asks Widget to tell him the story of what happened. Widget, after a slight hesitation, knows exactly what to say. He smiles and starts by saying, “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not…”

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The Night Circus By: Erin Morgenstern


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