Symbols in "Uglies"

Topics: Uglies, Scott Westerfeld, Tally Youngblood Pages: 5 (1900 words) Published: January 27, 2013
Judy Burnside
Mrs. McClure
English 11 Honors, Period 7
3 Jan 2013

Have you ever wanted to be perfect? Have you ever wanted a perfect society? Imagine a place where everyone was equally beautiful, and there were no responsibilities or worries. A place where you were given everything you could’ve ever asked for. If you had a place this luxurious, would you still want it? Sometimes we think our lives would be fulfilled if we were smarter, or prettier, or more athletic. It is these times that we neglect to see how great our lives already are. This is the theme of Scott Westerfeld’s novel, Uglies. Like all great writers, Scott Westerfeld supports the theme of his novel with symbolism that is hidden in every character and event. Uglies takes place in futuristic Northern California. In this story, society is divided into two main groups, the “Uglies” and the “Pretties”. These two groups are separated by a river that runs between their cities. The reader first meets the main character, Tally, when she is sneaking across this river on a bridge to see her friend Peris. Tally quotes, “The old bridge stretched massively across the water, its huge iron framework as black as the sky. The bridge was silent, and had always seemed very wise…Tally pulled the fishing line until it turned into a wet, knotted cord. Tally then pulled the rope and lashed it to the usual tree. One time the escape rope had pulled loose from the tree and both she and Peris swung downward into the icy river. She smiled at the memory, realizing she would rather be on that expedition-soaking wet and freezing-than dry and warm tonight, but alone” (Loc 80). This quote not only shows Tally’s route of escape, but the emptiness she feels from the separation between her and her best friend, Peris. The quote also shows the hidden symbolism in the bridge. Standing over a society where everything is constantly improving, the bridge represents the past for Pretties and Uglies. It holds the same architecture from a hundred years ago and it is one of the only artifacts left over from the apocalypse that ended the society before them.

There is a reason for the separation of Pretties and Uglies in this novel. Uglies are completely natural, they don’t wear makeup, they go to school, and they live in dorms on the Ugly side of the river. Pretties are the opposite. Pretties undergo a cosmetic surgery that makes them as perfect as possible, and they are given no responsibilities in their new life. When an Ugly turns sixteen, they are turned into a Pretty and moved across the river. While Tally is awaiting her surgery, she gazes across the river and quotes, “I could see New Pretty Town through my open window. The party towers were already lit up, and snakes of burning torches marked flickering pathways to through the pleasure gardens…Laughter and music skipped across the river like rocks thrown with just the right spin, their edges just as sharp against Tally’s nerves” (Loc 54). This quote describes a typical night in New Pretty Town, as well as Tally’s longing to be a part of a perfect society. Constantly we find ourselves gazing upon someone else’s life, wishing ours was as glamorous as theirs. Tally’s desire to be across the river symbolizes everyone is modern society wishing for a perfect life.

Lying on the outskirts of both these towns is the Rusties’ cities. “Rusties” is a term referring those who lived before this new society came into play. At first, Tally disregards these cities, seeing them as just abandoned plains. It’s not until Shay, a girl from the Uglies town and Tally’s friend, runs away on her sixteenth birthday. Shay’s birthday is the same day as Tally’s, so Tally had expected they would come out of surgery together. However, when the hover cab comes to pick up Tally, it doesn’t take her to the hospital. Instead it takes her to Special Circumstances. When she arrives at Special Circumstances, Doctor Cable is waiting to speak with her. Dr. Cable tells...
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