"There was a certain kind of beauty, a prettiness that everyone could see. Big eyes and full lips like a kid's; smooth clear skin; symmetrical features; and a thousand other little clues. Somewhere in the backs of their minds, people were always looking for these markers."
This is the first description in the novel of what pretties look like. It indicates that the surgery renders people objectively beautiful, and insinuates that this beauty is a benefit to a person's survival; human beings subconsciously want to help those they find attractive, so getting the surgery provides an evolutionary advantage.
"The flowers were so beautiful, so delicate and unthreatening, but they choked everything around them."
This quotation describes the white tiger orchids that have spread wildly throughout the landscape, due to genetic engineering that proved too effective. Their beauty belies the danger they pose to their environment, much like the pretties' uniform beauty suffocates physical diversity.
"She was free. Dr. Cable would never come here now, and no one could ever take her away from David or the Smoke, or do to Tally's brain whatever the operation did to pretties'. She was no longer an infiltrator. She finally belonged here."
In the lead-up to this passage, Tally throws the locket given to her by Dr. Cable into the fire, believing any chance of invasion by the Specials to be destroyed alongside the necklace. Here, she feels the relief of unburdening herself of a dangerous temptation; with the locket incinerated, she is finally free to be an authentic member of the Smoke.
"'They sprayed it with something to keep it up for school trips.' And that was her city in a nutshell, Tally realized. Nothing left to itself. Everything turned into a bribe, a warning, or a lesson."
In this passage, Tally reveals how she feels about the city's repurposing of the Rusty Ruins as a symbol of the dangers of too much personal freedom. No aspect of her life is beyond the city's exploitation and control.
"What was she now? No longer a spy, and she couldn't call herself a Smokie anymore. Hardly a pretty, but she didn't feel like an ugly, either. She was nothing in particular. But at least she had a purpose."
On her way to rescue the imprisoned Smokies, Tally reconsiders which social group she belongs to and what this categorization means to her. Having accidentally betrayed the Smoke robs her of her Smokie status, but the fact that she didn't mean to do it means that she is no longer a spy. She isn't a pretty, but doesn't identify as ugly. Now that she is facing life-threatening danger, Tally finds that these things matter less to her. She knows where she is going, and that is—for the moment—enough.
"'At first it killed me to hear you act like the Smoke still existed. But if there are enough uglies like them, maybe it will again.'"
In this quotation, David expresses hope about the continued existence of the Smoke, as a concept. Though the physical Smoke has been destroyed, rebellious thought is alive and well, which means that it can be rebuilt.
"'He doesn't know that you were working for Dr. C, does he? Don't worry, Tally,' she whispered, putting one elegant finger to her lips. 'Your ugly little secret is safe with me.'"
As Tally and David rescue the prisoners, Shay, who has been transformed into a pretty against her wishes, confronts Tally about her betrayal of the Smoke and her decision to continue to hide it from David. She calls it Tally's ugly little secret, a turn of phrase that suggests both her own buried anger and the notion that there is something ugly not just in Tally's appearance but in her decision to mislead others.
"'I like the way I look,' Shay insisted. 'I'm happier in this body. You want to talk about brain damage? Look at you all, running around these ruins playing commando. You're all full of schemes and rebellions, crazy with fear and paranoia, even jealousy.' Her eyes skipped back and forth between Tally and Maddy. 'That's what being ugly does.'"
In this passage, Shay, turned pretty, suggests that a person's ugliness is its own kind of brain damage in that it prompts emotional lability and paranoid rebellious thought. If the Smokies were to simply follow society's rules, and undergo the operation, they would be happy under the government's rule.
"'They don't want people to know what it was like before the operation. They want to keep you hating yourselves. Otherwise, it's too easy to get used to ugly faces, normal faces.'"
In this passage, David explains to Tally why the Specials have burned all the books in the Smoke's library. It is part of their campaign to withhold information from the population, because if people were to see that there existed a civilization in which normal faces were widely accepted, the government could not continue to mandate the operation.
"She thought of the orchids spreading across the plains below, choking the life out of other plants, out of the soul itself, selfish and unstoppable. Tally Youngblood was a weed. And, unlike the orchids, she wasn't even a pretty one."
In this passage, Tally compares herself to the white tiger orchids that are creating biological zero as a result of their chokehold on the land. What she and the flowers share is a self-interest that drives them to destroy what is around them. Worst of all, Tally reflects, the orchids are beautiful and she is not.
Uglies (The Uglies) Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Uglies (The Uglies) is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.