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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

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...

Friendship

Friendship is the flip side of loneliness: when you have people you can talk to and pull pranks with, you feel less lonely. (And let's be clear: no one in Uglies wants to be a hermit—everyone wan...

Society and Class

The world of Uglies is separated into the haves and have-nots—those who have had the surgery vs. those who have not (yet). The city even has different areas for the different classes of people, l...

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 engineeri...

Betrayal

Tally lies a lot, but these aren't simple lies, like telling a teacher, "of course I'm listening" or "I've never heard of Shmoop." Tally's lies are part of her betrayal: she's lying to people who e...

Memory and the Past

As your history teacher loves to tell you, studying the past is the only way to understand the present and guess about the future. (If your history teacher hasn't told you that, then you are the lu...

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 insta...

Coming of Age

In Uglies, coming of age isn't just about going through puberty and having to take the SAT. Coming of age means being able to find a place in the world: a home where you belong, some work that's im...

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 pr...

Technology and Modernization

In Uglies, technology can tell us a lot about what a society values. For instance, the Smokies live a primitive existence (they can't even make their own dehydrated food), but they put the energy i...
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