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by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies Theme of Man and the Natural World

In Uglies, people change the natural world in order to suit them better—but that doesn't always work out for the best. Sound familiar? But instead of issues of climate change or genetic engineering (as we face), the ugly/pretty world faces questions around the pretty surgery and the consequences of our genetic engineering (sorry, future guys, that's totally our bad). Tally's society generally leaves the wilderness alone, but they live in a very managed bubble. So while Tally's city is more careful of nature in some ways (using solar power more than oil or wood), the pretty world is a little unnatural and artificial, like a Jersey Shore tan.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Which society has the better relationship to the natural world? Does the city have a better relationship because it relies more on solar power (as far as we see), compared to the wood-burning, tree-cutting Smoke? Which society is more like the Rusties—the fiery Smoke or the nature-altering city?
  2. We talk about the societies' different relations to the wilderness, but what about the characters' relations to the wilderness? How does Tally relate to the wilderness? What about Dr. Cable and the Specials? 
  3. How does the destruction of the Rusty civilization affect the way you read this book? Do you feel like this book is a warning to us about the way we treat nature?
  4. We talk mostly about plants and people when we think about nature in Uglies, but what about other parts of the natural world, like animals. Why do you think there are so few animals in this book? Can you, for instance, imagine pets in the city? Would they be purebred cats and dogs who all look alike? What about in the Smoke?

Chew on This

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

In Uglies, everyone needs the city and the wilderness (and not just for camping out). No one can survive without both.

In Uglies, human tampering with nature always leads to disaster, like with the white orchid and the pretty surgery.

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