In E. B. White's The Ring of Time, the author gives a narrative account of his trip to a circus rehearsal where he describes a fascinating scene of a young girl practicing a horse act for an upcoming show. As a writer, he feels it is his obligation to record the events he is witnessing, and convey this to his readers without leaving anything out. However difficult this may be, the beautiful and fleeting moment is something he wishes to ultimately capture.
When he arrives on the scene, White senses something magical about the surroundings of this circus as it undergoes a rehearsal, but he is primarily fixed on a young woman who passes by him. The young 'cleverly proportioned, deeply browned by the sun, dusty, eager, and almost naked'; girl is the one thing which he wishes to focus on. After watching her magnificently ride around the one of the circus' rehearsal rings, the author begins see a connection between the girl and her act. This brings about the author's central idea of a cyclical view of time.
White suggests that time is circular, and that is goes round and round repeating itself. The images of rings and circles throughout the first few paragraphs support this. He describes the girl's gaze as 'circular'; , and 'time itself began running in circles'; as she took her horse around the circus ring. However, time itself is a constantly changing quantity with everything around it changing also. White realizes this and states, 'She will never be this beautiful again'; . This young woman and her motions around the ring mesmerize the author.
He knows all of this is an illusion though, and the girl will eventually lose her beauty and grace as she grows older. White, however, wants the reader to see the two views of time: both circular and linear. The scene he is witnessing may never happen again, yet for that moment, time seems to stop and run into itself. If one looks at the linear idea of time, the girl will and eventually lose all her agility and beauty, but White sees that in a larger context nothing at all will change. The girl will move on and her daughter eventually will take the reins of the horse and control of center ring, keeping the cycle going.
The circus will always stay together while its' performers will age around it. Another theme portrayed in the story is that of the circus being a 'microcosm'; of the world. White states that, 'Out of its wild disorder comes order'; , and this is how society can be viewed. The rehearsal, to the author, is the most magical and complex part of the circus. Before the bright lights are turned on and the real show gets started, the confusion and development of the upcoming event (before the polished product) is what the circus is all about. Life, as a result, can be seen as a parallel to this.
In what appears to be a world of chaos, is actually a society of simplicity and order.