The Ideas of Satire in Uglies, a Novel by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies: A Satire to Our World Satire is a literary comedy that criticizes the society and its institutions. Many famous philosophers such as Voltaire and Jonathan Swift used the genre of satire to criticize the society that they live in, in order to talk about the problems that they have against the government. Scott Westerfeld has written the novel, “Uglies”, to present the ideas of satire and how each element in his novel links back to the world that the readers live in.

Westerfeld uses his novel to get his opinions of what is wrong with the society and the people within them across without trying to impose his views on the readers. There are many targets of satire within the novel that relates to the real world. Westerfeld shows the connections between the society’s reliance on technology, their conformity, and mistreatment of the environment as an exact replica of the readers’ reality.

Satire is a form in which Westerfeld uses to make a point in a way that the readers do not feel assaulted.

Westerfeld utilizes satire in a way to open the eyes of readers on the dependency of technology by people. In the novel the characters are shown to be reliant on technology to the point where they are not able to function properly without it. The protagonist of the story, Tally Youngblood, lives in a society where technology is everywhere. She uses all types of technology on a day to day basis such as when she is waking up, brushing her teeth, or even when she is getting breakfast.

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Her world is completely full of technology that she does not even realize the huge impact that her dependency on technology is doing to her. This is evident in the novel when it states, “She wondered how late it was. Without her interface ring, she couldn’t ask” (Westerfeld, 71). Tally Youngblood depends on her technology to do something as simple as telling what time of the day it is. Her reliance on technology has made her unable to tell the time.

This simple action alludes to the world of the readers. There are many teenagers just like Tally who are not able to tell the time without using a digital clock that gives them the specific time or their phones. Westerfeld shows that people’s dependency on technology has a huge impact on their ability to learn even the most basic of things. Technology does not just affect the way people learn, but also the way people act. Growing up in a technology based society allows people to become sluggish. Tally travels to the Rusty Ruins, where there is no technology. Once there she realizes how dependent she is on technology. This is shown when it says, “After a few minutes’ walking, though, the board started to grow heavy… it felt like a plank of oak under her arm. ‘Yeah, this is what a board weighs when it’s not hoverboarding. Out here, you find out that the city fools you about how things really work”” (Westerfeld, 59).

Westerfeld shows through Tally that when people begin to rely on technology they begin to lose a grip on reality. Tally has never had to lift a heavy object like the hoverboard in her life, since it weighs next to nothing in the city. It is only when she leaves the comfort of the city that she becomes aware of how technology affects her life. In the real world there are many people who rely on technology to make their lives easier. A majority of people in society do not know what it feels like to do manual labour without the assistance of technology. Westerfeld shows readers the effects technology has on our physical capability, but also shows us how technology can be manipulated to help people get what they want. This is obvious when it states, “Dr. Cable pointed at the wallscreen, and an image appeared. Like a mirror, but in close-up, it showed Tally as she looked right now: puffy-eyed and disheveled, exhaustion and red scratches marking her face, her hair sticking out in all directions, and her expression turning horrified as she beheld her own appearance.

‘That’s you tally. Forever.’ ‘Turn it off…” “Decide.’ ‘Okay, I’ll do it. Turn it off.’ The wallscreen went dark” (Westerfeld, 69). Tally allows herself to be manipulated by the technology in order to do the will of those who want to use her. Westerfeld shows that technology can be used to manipulate people in order to bend them to the will of others.

People are always conforming to the will of the society that they live in without being aware of what’s happening right in front of them. In the dystopian society of the novel, the government controls the thoughts of the people by feeding them lies that the people take as the truth. This is evident in the novel when Tally says, “You’re still yourself on the inside, Shay. But when you’re pretty, people pay more attention” (Westerfeld, 93). Tally has been told since birth that everyone was born ugly and repulsive. People were only beautiful once they turned sixteen when they can actually undergo the operation to turn them into a new pretty. Tally’s thoughts and beliefs have been modified to be aligned with the governments’ views. Westerfeld shows through Tally that in the real world people are conditioned to think and act a certain way without being aware of it. The people are blindsided by the lies that the government spreads and are not able to see the truth for what they really are; a way to control the masses. Tally Youngblood has been conditioned by her cities government to believe that she is very repulsive and that while she is an ugly nothing counts. The government has conditioned the people who are like Tally to loathe themselves for being who they are. The government wants a beautiful society where everyone looks the same and acts the same so there will not be any conflicts between the government and the people. However, all the government is doing is brainwashing the masses to think like mindless zombies, bending to their will. This is seen in the novel when it states, “Tally tried to imagine her growing old, wrinkled, gradually ruined, all without ever having been truly beautiful. Never learning how to dress properly, or how to act at a formal dance. Never having anyone look in her eyes and be simply overwhelmed” (Westerfeld, 95).

Tally believes in what the government is saying, when they address the issue of everyone being ugly. She is not aware that everyone is born unique and is very beautiful in their own way and would rather give up her individuality to the government just so they can turn her into a new pretty. Tally’s way of thinking represents the majority of the population in the world of the readers. Many people find it much easier to go along with what society thinks and remain oblivious. This is shown when Tally states, “I kind of like being fooled about some things” (Westerfeld, 59). Tally is admitting to herself that she rather remain fooled by the government instead of having to come to terms with how the government really works. This alludes to the readers’ society where there are people who rather remain ignorant about what is going on in their society, instead of coming to terms with it. Westerfeld shows readers through satire how people enjoy being mindless pawns for the government to use however they want.

The environment plays a huge factor within the novel. Westerfeld uses the novel to talk about how humans treat the environment and the disasters of what can go wrong when humans are not careful with it. Westerfeld refers to the real world in his novel when he begins to talk about the environmental aspects of Tally’s society. Everything in Tally’s society stems off from the previous civilization, The Rusties, which existed three hundred years before Tally’s time. The Rusties was a civilization that gained its name from the use of metal and steel. This is seen when it states, “Don’t worry. Whoever built this city loved to waste metal. They aren’t called the Rusty Ruins because some guy called Rusty discovered them” (Westerfeld, 61 – 62). The Rusty Ruins is a civilization that existed hundreds of years ago that had been destroyed because of the lifestyle that the people lived. The Rusty Ruins is an allusion to the real world. Westerfeld uses the Rusty Ruins to point out the flaws of human beings when it comes to the environment. Just like the real world, the people in the fictional civilization loved to waste materials such as metals on items that they did not need. Human beings waste their precious resources making the most insignificant things, which tend to have an impact on nature. In that quote it shows just how little the people cared about their resources. They only thought of the present and did not worry about what was going to happen in the future if their resources ran out. Westerfeld does not only allude to how humans waste their natural resources, but also how they tinker with the genes of plants and creatures. This is shown when it states, “’About three hundred years ago, some Rusty figured a way to engineer the species to adapt to wider conditions. She messed with the genes to make them propagate more easily.’ One of the most beautiful plants in the world. But too successful. They turned into the ultimate weed. They crowd out every other Westerfeld uses satire to criticize the stupidity of humans as they begin to tinker with genes of species that they are not familiar with. He shows that humans do not place boundaries when it comes to nature itself and shows the damaging effects of their ignorance. Westerfeld shows that there are severe consequences for the actions that people take. The Rusty who messed with the genes of the flower impacted the environment severely, throwing the entire eco – system off balance. Human beings are naturally incapable of thinking their actions through. This is obvious when it states, “If nothing else, the mess left by the Rusties proved that things could go terribly wrong if you weren’t careful” (Westerfeld, 74). The Rusty civilization was not careful when it concerned nature. They did not think things through, which is why their civilization got destroyed. Westerfeld is trying to tell readers through the satire in his novel that if people are not attentive of how they treat the environment then the society that they know will be in ruins just like the Rusties.

In conclusion, Westerfeld uses satire in his novel to show how people are very dependent on technology to help them with even the most basic of things. They rely on technology to the point where they are not able to function in their daily lives without there use. Westerfeld uses satire to make a point when it concerns people’s willingness to conform to the needs of the society. People rather remain oblivious about the world that they live in and allow the government to think for them instead of thinking for themselves. Furthermore, Westerfeld’s novel is a satire of our world through the mistreatment of the environment and how societies can fall apart if people are not careful. Westerfeld uses each of those elements to link back to the reality of the readers’.

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The Ideas of Satire in Uglies, a Novel by Scott Westerfeld. (2022, May 11). Retrieved from

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