What role does nature play in Uglies?
Nature is a central theme in Uglies. The protagonist, Tally, has grown up sheltered by the comforts of the city and has rarely been exposed to the terror and beauty of the natural world. As she journeys from the city to the Smoke, Tally must learn to survive in the tumult of the elements, which teaches her a valuable lesson about self-reliance. It is not enough to rely on one's beauty to survive, one must also cultivate survival skills. When Tally isn't battling nature's cruel volatility, she is awestruck by its majesty and feels dwarfed by the vast natural beauty that surrounds her. Suddenly, pretties' manmade beauty pales in comparison to nature's. "Nature didn't need an operation to be beautiful," Tally reflects. "It just was."
Explain the importance of Tally's heart-shaped pendant in Uglies.
Tally's heart-shaped pendant is given to her by Dr. Cable as a tool to alert the Specials to her location once she has arrived in the Smoke. It becomes an object of curiosity to the Smokies, who do not know that its very existence poses a real threat to their way of life. To Tally, it is increasingly an albatross around her neck, the thing that stops her from belonging to the Smoke. She sees the pendant as a symbol of her own treacherous nature and its weight around her neck exerts a pressure on Tally's psyche; she feels enormous shame at the prospect of betraying her friends.
What does beauty mean to Tally?
Initially, Tally understands beauty to be a purely physical virtue, and characteristic only of people who have undergone the pretty operation. She cannot fathom that there is any kind of beauty other than that which her society cherishes—the singular beauty of pretties. Once she arrives in the Smoke, Tally's understanding of beauty grows more complex. She conceives of David as beautiful, even though he is technically an ugly; he hasn't been under the knife yet. Similarly, the beauty of the natural world enthralls Tally. She realizes that not all beauty is manmade, nor is it limited to physicality. Beauty is a relative and subjective term, applicable both to interiority and exteriority. It is diversity that truly allows beauty to flourish.
In what way is technology an important feature of the world of Uglies?
The world of Uglies is built upon the bedrock of its technology. The operation is made possible by advanced medical technology, the city is made possible by advanced architectural technology, and most transportation is dependent on magnetic principles. Accordingly, should any element of these technologies fail, the city would fall apart and its citizens would be left helpless. Scientific technology, the reader understands, is a complicated survival tool. It can have major benefits: the eradication of disease, poverty, and war. It also has major drawbacks: technology creates a population whose survival is entirely predicated upon its success.
What effect does mandatory body modification have on people's self-esteem in the world of Uglies?
Because everyone in Tally's world undergoes a transformative cosmetic surgery at age 16, littlies and uglies are conditioned to think of themselves as hideous. This pervasive self-conception is concretized in the ugly nicknames teenagers use to address one another; here, people are named for their worst features. The effect this has on a person's self-esteem is devastating; Tally can see nothing about herself or anyone else that is innately beautiful.