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by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies Theme of Freedom and Confinement

As Uglies shows us, the worst confinement isn't being kept in a small rabbit pen or chained to a desk in the Shmoop basement writing guides. The worst form of confinement is that Tally's society prevents people from finding their identities. (Although being handcuffed by the Specials and put into a rabbit pen is also no fun.) In Uglies, people are confined in their choices or are pulled in so many directions that they're not really free. Like Tally: she's stuck between her conflicting promises to Peris and Shay; Dr. Cable's blackmail; and her growing love for the Smoke and David. People in Uglies are trapped because they're stuck in a system they can't get out of.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. Is technology associated with freedom or confinement in Uglies? For instance, the hoverboard seems to be an object of freedom—you can go anywhere on a hoverboard (as long as there's metal around, the official element of freedom). But then the Specials have handcuffs and hovercars, which can be pretty confining.
  2. Which character is most free here? Is it Tally, who has lots of conflicting duties, but can choose among them? Is it Dr. Cable, who has to enforce the system? Or some other character—Shay (either pre- or post-pretty surgery) or David or Peris (who is free to have fun all day)?
  3. Which society in this book has the most freedom: the city, the Smoke, or the Rusties (before they all died)? What makes these societies free or confining?
  4. We tend to like "freedom" and dislike "confinement," but are there any examples in this book of positive confinement? Are there any downsides to freedom in this book?

Chew on This

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

No character in Uglies is really free. Even the ones who live in the woods.

The most limiting confinement in Uglies is self-imposed: it's when characters won't allow themselves to change or grow or compromise.

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