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by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies Theme of Identity

How much of you is you, and how much is from other people? That might seem like a weird thing to say, but in Uglies, there are lots of elements that go into making each person's identity. For instance, Tally may be a trickster—but maybe she's only that because the city society is set up to let her pull tricks. Or maybe she pulls tricks because she's friends with other uglies who like to pull tricks. Maybe she likes tricks? (It's so hard to know.) So lots of outside factors affect Tally's identity—and that's all before we get to the pretty surgery with its brain lesions, which seriously would affect her identity. In Uglies, identity isn't something stable and unchangeable, it's a growing part of who you are, affected by everything around you.

Questions About Identity

  1. Does Uglies settle on one aspect that defines identity? Are people made by their memories and experiences; or by their friends; or by their society; or by something else? Or does the book show that many of these combine to make a unique identity?
  2. Tally argues that uglies pull mean tricks and fight because they're unhappy with who they are. Does this statement accurately describe the action in the book? Do you think this statement describes real life? Are people more likely to fight others when they are unhappy with themselves?
  3. Do the older characters have settled identities? Are there any conflicts inside the older characters (as far as we can tell)? Or are they all stable and boring? And is that because of the surgery or because they're old?
  4. How do characters discover their identity? Is "discover" the right word? Should we say "create"?

Chew on This

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

Tally finds her own identity by watching other people struggle with their identities (like Peris and Shay who get made pretty, or even Maddy and Az who have to give up their identities as doctors in the city to become runaways).

Individual identity in Uglies often conflicts with friendship, because friends often try to make each other over and change their identities.

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