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by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies Theme of Appearance

In Uglies, appearance is right where it should be: out in the open. A lot of this book involves people arguing over prettiness vs. ugliness in very open ways, as Tally and Shay do. "Appearance" in this book isn't just people saying "I like your hair"; it's more like, "I like your hair, therefore I want to be friends" or "I like your hair because it's like everyone else's and now society is equal." But by the end of the book, we're left wondering: if we're supposed to be learning that appearance doesn't matter, why does Tally end up undergoing the pretty surgery?

Questions About Appearance

  1. Are there moments where some character's prettiness influences another character, and if so, how does it affect them? What about the prettiness of older people or the cruel prettiness of the Specials—how do different types of prettiness affect characters?
  2. Shay argues (without knowing about the brain lesions) that the pretties are all dumb and have nothing to say. Is this a fair statement in this book? Is Shay judging these people by their appearance? What about in the real world—how do people judge others based on their appearance?
  3. Tally argues that we are biologically predisposed to find certain people pretty. Does this statement hold up in this book? Does she ever reverse her argument and say that prettiness isn't biological? What about the idea of a Pretty Committee—if the idea of prettiness is biologically determined, why should they have a committee to determine things?
  4. David is not a pretty, but Tally comes to think of him as pretty. Why is that? And how does Tally respond when David calls her pretty (even though she hasn't had the pretty surgery)?
  5. Is there anything in Uglies about fashion? Do people talk about pretty clothes or mostly just pretty people? Are there scenes where clothes play an important role? (For instance, in the party Tally crashes in New Pretty Town; or her thoughts about David's leather jacket.) How would this book be different if the pretty surgery were replaced with some sort of mandatory uniform?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

While David argues (after-school-special-style) that what's inside is important, the book shows how important appearances are.

Uglies doesn't talk about coming-of-age changes like puberty (your ugly, changing body) or other natural changes in order to focus on the unnatural pretty surgery.

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