Part III: Intersections
Herr Thiessen’s writes how he would love to read every person’s experience of the circus. He feels fortunate that he has been able to share so many stories with the rêveurs. He ruminates on how each visitor adds their own stories to the circus.
Two performance artists are posed in a statue-like display in the middle of a crowd. The woman has dark hair and is wearing a black-and-white outfit like a ballerina’s. The man wears a pinstriped suit and bowler hat. They are entwined but not touching one another but moving subtly closer as they appear to be on the cusp of a kiss.
The thirteenth anniversary of the circus is celebrated at Chandresh’s house and nearly everyone is in attendance. The party is a fête unlike any other as Chandresh lavishes his guests with food and drinks. Celia spends much of the party socializing and showing off her color-changing gown. Marco whisks Celia away into an alcove and they share a romantic moment hidden away from the rest of the crowd. When Marco kisses Celia’s neck, the man in the grey suit interrupts them and Celia excuses herself. The man in the grey suit and Marco argue when he admits he interrupted them on purpose. Marco tells him that he is in love with Celia and that everything he has done for the circus has been for her. The man in the grey suit tells Marco that this will make the challenge more difficult for Marco but it will not free him from the game. Marco storms away and kisses Celia in the middle of the ballroom before removing the memory from everyone’s minds but theirs.
Bailey returns to the circus where he explores the Labyrinth with Poppet and Widget. Poppet is deeply upset when they get trapped in a room that resembles a large birdcage. Bailey frees them by finding a key, but Poppet remains distressed as she and Widget leave to perform. Bailey explores the Bedtime Stories tent where he finds bottles that contain captured dreams and memories. He is disturbed by one that depicts a violent scene from the perspective of an unknown person being hurt in the circus. When he leaves the tent, he encounters a statue performer with love letters written all over her gown. A woman in a red scarf gives the statue a red rose. Poppet appears by Bailey’s side and confesses that the woman, known as the Paramour, is her favorite of the statue performers. Poppet explains the rêveurs to Bailey as they walk around the circus. They end the night by playing hide-and-seek in the Ice Garden.
Drunk, Chandresh breaks into Marco’s office to snoop. He finds a book filled with strange symbols, the signatures of all the people in the circus, and locks of hair locked in the drawer of Marco’s desk. Chandresh finds his own name in the book just as Marco arrives. Marco confronts him about looking through his things and they argue. Chandresh accuses him of lying and keeping secrets. Marco wipes Chandresh’s memory with a charm before packing his belongings and leaving Chandresh with a bottle of brandy. Later that night, Chandresh drunkenly speaks with Hector’s ghost.
Three Cups of Tea with Lainie Burgess
Lainie visits both Mme. Padva and Mr. Barris privately trying to get answers about the circus. It becomes clear to Mr. Barris that Lainie is trying to understand what happened to Tara. Lainie asks if he knows the truth of the circus and, while he admits that he does, he tells her that he can’t tell her. She stays with him in Switzerland for a little while before leaving for the circus. Having deduced from her conversation with Mr. Barris that Celia knows more about the circus than the rest, she asks her about what is really going on. Celia tells Lainie about the challenge and the truth of the circus. Lainie intentionally breaks a teacup so she can see Celia put it back together with her magic. Before she leaves, Lainie tells Celia that she should ask her if she needs anything. She reminds her that the people involved in the game are not as easily repaired as teacups.
In “The Lovers” the two figures who stand statue still reaching for one another on the brink of a kiss symbolize Marco and Celia’s forbidden romance. The enigmatic performers who pose as statues in the circus are often symbolic of significant events within the plot. When Bailey encounters the Snow Queen in “Oneiromancy” the scene foreshadows the death of Tara Burgess. Similarly, the statues of the lovers in this scene echo the way that Celia and Marco are slowly growing closer and closer to one another in the main plot of the novel. That they do not touch but reach for one another implies a mutual longing that has yet to come to fruition. The chapter’s title is also an example of the motif of tarot cards, as The Lovers is a card that has represented Marco and Celia repeatedly. The longstanding tension between Marco and Celia finally culminates at the anniversary party in “Thirteen” when Marco declares his love for Celia and sweeps her into a very public kiss. However, the stakes of the game are still too high for their love to be public and Marco’s memory charm on the partygoers continues the suspense over the outcome of his and Celia’s relationship.
The color changing gown that Celia wears at the anniversary party symbolizes her growing transformation into her true self. Celia’s dress, along with the bright colors that the other performers wear during the party uses the motif of color to reveals that she is embracing her freedom to express herself. In contrast to the usual black, white, or grey attire she is required to wear at the circus, Celia’s remarkable, chameleon-like gown shifts colors based off of the outfit of the person she is closest to. The gown reveals not only Celia’s growing talents as an illusionist, but is also a symbol of her compassion and empathy. Celia is unusually adept at understanding others and meeting them on their terms, which the color changing gown exemplifies. Similarly, the gown reveals the way Marco’s love is influencing her when her dress turns green to match his suit during each of their romantic encounters at the party.
The confrontation between Marco and the man in the grey suit during the anniversary party is a turning point in their relationship. As the man in the grey suit is the only parental figure Marco has ever known, their dynamic mimics one of father and son. Like any son, Marco aims to make the man in the grey suit proud of him by diligently studying and performing exceptional fetes of magic with the circus. Unfortunately, the man in the grey suit is a distant and cold father figure, leaving Marco feeling alone and neglected. While Marco’s frustrations with the man in the grey suit have long been apparent, it isn’t until the moment that the man in the grey suit interrupts his romantic moment with Celia that his feelings boils over into true anger. Ironically, the confrontation reveals for the first time that the man in the grey suit does indeed care for Marco when he is both shocked and saddened by Marco’s revelation that he is in love with Celia. This interaction has a huge impact on the man in the grey suit, who storms away from the party in a show of emotion uncharacteristic of his normal behavior. The scene is subtly heartbreaking representation of the misaligned expectations parents and children often have for one another.
“Bookkeeping” provides a terrifying look into the way that Chandresh has changed since the circus opened. Once a vibrant, passionate man with limitless imagination, Chandresh has become a shadow of his former self. He suspects that this has something to do with the circus itself, but he can’t quite make the connections necessary to piece together the fact that he has been tied magically to his production. Though there have been indication that he has changed since the beginning of the novel, with his forgetfulness, suspiciousness, and drunkenness, becoming increasingly noticeable to the other characters, this chapter frames his behavior as something much more serious and ominous. Much like Tara Burgess before him, the magic that has been used on him causes him to transform into someone who is paranoid and confused. His fragile mental state also leaves him open to manipulation, as is ominously foreshadowed by his drunken conversation with Hector’s ghost at the end of the chapter.
In “Three Cups of tea with Lainie Burgess” Lainie’s conversations with Mme. Padva, Mr. Barris, and Celia come together to reveal key information and drive the plot forward. The relationships between the Conspirators that have so far mostly been conducted off the page, are finally made clear as Mme. Padva reveals her maternal feelings toward Chandresh and Mr. Barris admits his romantic feelings for Lanie. Mme. Padva, Mr. Barris, and Lanie all finally openly acknowledge that the circus has prevented them from aging, revealing their awareness of supernatural influences on their lives. Most significantly, each of these conversations helps bring closure to Lanie about the true nature of her sister’s death. Lainie coming to know the truth of the circus during her confrontation with Celia brings the plot ever closer to its climax.