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The Night Circus

A presentation I had to give on the critical approaches found within my novel, The Night Circus. This was done for my ENG4U course.

Pamela Luzny

on 15 January 2015

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Transcript of The Night Circus

Thesis Statement


"But any resolve she might have had about the matter disappeared as soon as they were back in Concord and their father's word came down. 'Absolutely not.' Caroline accepted this with little more than a fleeting pout, decinding that it would probably be too much work, and she did not particularly care for the city, anyway. Besides, Millie was engaged and there was a wedding to plan, a subject Caroline found far more interesting than her own education. And that was that" (Morgenstern 109-110)
Plot Synopsis
The novel takes place from the late 1800's to the early 1900's.
The chapters jump from each of the character's perspectives, but in the end, the novel reveals that the book was written from Poppet's point of view. These jumps allow the reader to understand multiple angles on the occurrences and aid in comprehending the story at hand.
The novel revolves around two major characters, the first is a female named Celia Bowen and the second, a male named Marco Alisdair. The two soon realize they have become part of a duel, which they have not personally signed up for.
The Night Circus
Pamela Luzny
Ms. Kuch
13 January 2015

Erin Morgenstern
"'I am not entirely sure it is appropriate,' Chandresh says, eyeing the girl thoughtfully [...] 'We should at least let her show off her skills before arguing over the appropriateness of a female illusionist'" (94).
Works Cited
Morgenstern, Erin. The Night Circus. Canada: Anchor Canada, 2011. Print.
Critical Approaches

Colours, Motifs, Symbols
Caroline VS. Bailey, Celia VS. Marco
Within Erin Morgenstern's
The Night Circus
, various fictional elements such as repetition and relationships, convey multiple themes of love, education, and dreaming.
Plot Synopsis Continued...
The story begins when Celia is dropped off at her father's after her mother has committed suicide. At first, her dad, Hector Bowen also known as the mighty Prospero the Enchanter, does not want her, but then quickly realizes that she holds magical powers. She becomes of use to him and he believes to be at an advantage during the mysterious competition.
Marco Alisdair is adopted from an orphanage by Mr. A.H. when he is made aware of his opponent's player. The two kids are immediately placed in training, where they study and practice magic. Separated for the vast majority of their childhood, their lives finally intertwine once Celia auditions for a role in the circus as a recommendation by her father. Marco and Celia cross paths but mostly stay out of each other's way as Celia has no knowledge about the identity of her opponent.
The game slowly unravels until it comes to a climaxing end. It consists of marvelous tricks and ultimate sacrifices. Chandresh and Friedrick have no regard for and bid on their children's lives, only keeping one thing in mind: winning. In order for a victor to rise to the top, one of the players must die. In the last moments of the competition, the plot twists and the unexpected happens! Pick up your copy to find out more about Le Cirque des Reves today!
Along the way, several other valuable characters get mixed into the storyline. Tsukiko a past victor and contortionist, Tara and Lainie Burgess with Widget and Poppet are two sets of twins, Bailey and his sister Caroline the son and daughter of a farmer, Mme. Padva and Mr. Barris, Herr Theissen a clockmaker, as well as Isobel, Marco's first girlfriend and tarot card reader.
In Conclusion...

approach emphasizes the themes of
love and dreaming
with the underlying significance of colours, symbols and motifs. The interpreted meanings of recurring images and objects helped to develop messages that the author was trying to convey.

approach highlights relationships in order to establish the themes of
as well as the
patriarchal constructs
. By reading-between-the-lines of the purposefully set up scenarios and treatments of females in contrast to males, a greater comprehension of the text was patiently waiting to be unveiled.
Positively represents purity, innocence, cleanliness, peace, and new beginnings
Negatively represents emptiness, isolation, distance, caution, and boredom
Instances where white is revealed within the novel: flames, signs, stripes on tents, attire
Positively represents discipline, authority, protection, seriousness, sophistication, confidence, and control
Negatively represents absence of light, hiding, intimidation, being unapproachable, secretive, withholding, unknown, mystery, mourning, and depression
Instances where black is revealed within the novel: coats and dresses, the flipside of cards, umbrellas, iron fences,
Positively represents ambition, passion, love, romance, determination, stimulation, and drive
Negatively represents revenge, anger, aggression, manipulation, fear, danger and violence
Instances where red is revealed within the novel: hair of Widget and Poppet, scarves of Reveurs (die-hard fans), paint that Poppet sees in her glimpses
Silver and gold for Celia and Marco that scarred into their fingers permanently for the duration of the battle
Signify an eternal promise, binding to the ongoing war between Chandresh and Friedrick, stuck in a loop forever
Poppet given to Bailey as a souvenir on his daring mission of breaking into the circus in the daytime
Signify having confidence in a person, transactions, warmth or survival. In this case, the offering of the glove proved that Poppet had faith that Bailey was telling the truth about being dared inside of the fences of the circus and she had faith that he would one day, return to its perimeters
Isobel is gifted when it comes to reading for other's, she reads her cards on multiple occasions
Signify the future. Play the role of foreboding the future events of a vast array of characters. For example, Bailey's reading leads him to reuniting with Poppet. Marco's reading dictates his magical abilities to Isobel when they first meet. Celia's reading exposes the game to Isobel, deepening her knowledge of her boyfriend's perplexities
Whether natural of branches or trees drawn within the confines of paper notebooks, the ever-present bark is evident throughout
Represent growth, transitions from one stage to another. They represent hierarchy starting from the lowest branch and being promoted to tree top
Ravens or birds in general are always nearby, soaring overhead or peculiarly perched
Represent liberty and freedom, transitions between life and death. Ravens represent mystery, good omen, deception, and adjustment
From tiny candle flames to cozy fireplaces to a massive, yet contained burning cauldron in the centre of the circus
Represent feeling alive and fierce, battle has begun and it will destroy like a wildfire (kill), cannot be tamed, light, ignition, heat, and consumption
"'I would like to go,' he said, when there came a pause long enough to fit words in. 'You are taking over the farm' was his father's response [...] But he valiantly continues to debate with his father on a regular basis" (110,112).

His Mother
"His mother stays out of the arguements as much as she can but when pressed she agrees with her husband, while at the same time quietly asserting that it should really be Bailey's decision" (110).
Celia is not given a fair trial at her audition. The leader comments on how the illusionist should be a male and quickly dismisses Celia. Due to his poor judgement, the circus almost lost its most valuable contendor. Even after she is questioned, the leader is not interested until she mentions she is the descendant of a male legend, Prospero the Enchanter.
Even Bailey's mom falls under the typical role of a women within the household. Privately, she encourages her son to pursue his dream, but before her husband, she passively agrees that he must manage the farm.
A clear example of women attempting to please both sides, but publicly agreeing with her spouse. The typical two-faced female, talking up each side, keeping her honest opinion silent from the overbearing man of the house. She takes a back seat and becomes passive. The mother keeping quiet only provokes the father to continue being in charge. The outdated perspective where men call the shots is prominent in Bailey's family. The patriarchal constructs need to be deconstructed and broken down by each member of the family voicing their thoughts on matters. Otherwise, men in society will continue to feel obliged to handle important choices leaving female input out of question.
Caroline was never allowed to go to school and further polish her skills in university. She was told no by her father and not seeing a way out, accepted those terms.
The stereotypes of a lower IQ rise when Caroline passes on post-secondary due to the severity of work involved. The fleeting pout displays how females are timid, surrendering to the words of her father. In this instance, males are the controlling forces in the household and what he says is final. The stereotype of having a short attention span also comes into play as Caroline has one idea and is onto the next- planning a wedding. The gender stereotype of being expected to become housewives is also prominent since the girls gave up schooling to find husbands. Caroline acquires the typical jobs of housekeeping, settling for less than her male counterpart. Patriarchal constructs are evident as whatever the man of the house says, goes.
On the other hand, Bailey was a fighter. He picked arguments with his parents in hopes that they would change their minds. The issue was brought up in several attempts.
Bailey is responsible for the tougher, physically relying jobs around the farm. By persistently bringing up the subject, he demonstrates his strong will, determination, and hard headed self. Men are supposed to be the breadwinners, actively working around the home. The gender stereotype of not taking no as an answer is clear. His father has the traditional lifestyle in mind for his offspring. The two men of the house butt heads in their conflict over the throne.
Significance of Colour
The use of the colour red reflects the theme of love. It appears subtly as an accent colour on top of the black and white. At first the story does not appear to be a love story, just as at first there is an absence of colour. The red begins to pop up more and more as Celia and Marco become closer. Finally the hints of red become entire splashes of red. The reveurs wear red scarves to display their affection for the circus as well as tp signify the bond they share with one another.
The use of the colour combination of black with white balances the light versus the dark. There is so much innocence in the newborn twins, caution in the white flames, caution in whom one must trust, isolation when the students are brought up and raised alienated from any social situations. There is discipline in the training, protection from rain in the umbrellas, protection from unwanted outsiders during non-visiting hours in the iron fences, intimidation in those who wear black or grey suits, mourning in the outfits of attending the funeral. Since this is not the first time these games have taken place, the striped tents hold many secrets as do th masters, withholding any details about the game. Also, the colours black and white reflect the theme of dreaming as some people solely dream in black and white. When someone dreams without colour it is said that they like structure and order as well as division. It is said that they struggle with right and wrong decisions and the concepts of good versus evil. This holds true with the circus since there is a strong challenge between good prevailing over the evil.
Significance of Symbols
The rings reflect a theme of love as they bound Celia and Marco to the contest of skill. Rings are usually worn as a sign of possession or simple adornments for fingers. When used to show belonging, the rings are exchanged in a ceremony of matrimony. Although it was more private, both Celia and Marco underwent the rituals of the game. Stuck in the game until death literally does them part.

The gloves reflect a platonic love between Poppet and Bailey. She trusts that he is a man of his word and he can use the glove as evidence for his childish games. Poppet has faith that he will maintain the keepsake until they meet again. Once they do, the friendship is set in stone. You know what they say: if you platonically love someone, set them free...

The tarot cards reflect the theme of dreaming. Often times, when psychic readings appear in your sleep, they indicate a desire for a third party to validate a major decision one is making. One feels as though their life is in the hands of fate, outside of their control. This relates to a vast array of characters since Bailey is confused about pursuing a greater education, and Marco and Celia are confused about the outcome of the game once they are deeply rooted. Celia is confused about what moves she must retaliate with and whatever the ultimate sacrifice accomplishes for the pair, is left up to fate.
Tarot Cards
Significance of Motifs
Trees reflect the evolution of Bailey and how his sister used to rule the branches. Due to his older sister being in charge, she always put Bailey on the bottom, reserving the best views and longest climbs for herself. As Bailey reminisces, he makes a comfy nook for himself to relax in where his sister used to sit, electing himself as ruler. Intricate tree designs were also sketched by Marco in his exclusive notebook as discovered by Isobel. The two red-headed twins would sit beneath trees while Widget created a short story in his mind for them to enjoy. Whether positive or negative memories around bark, trees emphasized growth and developments, along with pleasurable tales of secrets and immortality.

Fires like emotions, are not vices or virtues until their purpose surfaces. A candle reflects warmth and comfort, but they can also be unstoppable and intense. Candle lights add to the eeriness of a room especially the one where Isobel does her readings. They can be functioning fireplaces, sources of illumination. Or they can be blazing flames devouring everything in its path, sparing no lives. Sparks can be welcoming or destructive. The cauldron with the never ceasing fire, burns at the heart of the circus saying: the games are alive and well underway.

Birds are ironic and contradictory to the plot. No one is free and the only liberty comes from murdering an opponent with tactics. However, the raven is a better representation of the novel. In addition to its dark colour, it adds a level of mystery and of deception. If the lies are not flying from mouths of the characters, surely many truths are not either. Secrets are more powerful when kept.
Celia is undermined simply for the fact that she is a girl. This becomes a problem to Chandresh he believes that a traditional illusionist is male. He believes females have too much sleeve to work with and prefers males as the more suitable illusionists. Celia remains calm as if expecting this sort of reaction and Mme. Padva encourages him to give her a second of his time. Here, the man tried to be the centre of society, but the overwhelming response from Mme. Padva forced Chandresh to watch her act. Here, Celia refused to be and was nearly dismissed by the circus' society. Due to the intervention of matriarch, the young girl was given the opportunity to perform.
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