Specials (The Uglies)

From Kissing to Cutting: The Degradation and Rediscovery of Touch in Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" Trilogy

Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series presents a society that regulates touch not through laws and mandates that can easily be broken, but through actually rewiring the brain chemistry of its citizens so that they will not desire touch with the wrong people. The protagonist, Tally, goes through two such transformations in the series: from Ugly to Pretty, and from Pretty to Special. Following one character through these transformations provides an effective case study into the effects the operations have on a person's relationship to touch. Tally starts off Ugly and in love with an Ugly boy and ends up Special and unable to physically express her love for anyone. As Tally's anatomy and brain chemistry are altered, her ability to relate to other people through touch deteriorates, leading her to a ritualized practice of self-injury. By the third novel, Specials, the once romantically-capable and affectionate Tally can only even remember her desire to touch when she is harming herself.

When Tally is an Ugly in the first novel, she has never had a mind-altering operation. Her entire body is natural, and the only obstacles to her expression of intimacy are socially programmed. When she first meets David, the rebellious Ugly from...

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