The Dangers of Conformity
Westerfield presents many arguments that encourage his young adult readers to resist the urge to give in to peer pressure and conformity. Instead, people should be true to themselves. Tally’s desire to get cosmetic surgery requires a sacrifice of her individuality. By changing herself to meet the same ideal standard of beauty as everyone else in society, Tally conforms to her society’s superficial ideas of beauty.
Westerfield uses several symbols to reinforce his critique of conformity. Dr. Cable provides Tally with food and other supplies for her journey to Smoke, but the only thing that she is given to eat is SpagBol, or Spaghetti Bolognese. After eating this same meal for breakfast, lunch, and supper every day throughout her journey, SpagBol is forever tainted for Tally. Too much of a good thing becomes odious, and variety would have been better.
Later, Tally encounters the white tiger orchids, another symbol of the danger of conformity. Once among the most rare flowers on the planet, the orchids are now an invasive species. A scientist hoping to grow and sell these vulnerable flowers altered their genetics and transformed the precious orchid into a super weed. Worse, the orchid now destroys the planet, taking out all of its competitors and creating a monoculture—an ecosystem without biological diversity. Although rangers burn these flowers to prevent them from spreading, what is left behind is a desert barren of nutrients. Because the monoculture destroyed all other forms of life, there is nothing left when the flowers are destroyed. Again, the loss of diversity ruins society.
Tally’s ultimate rejection of conformity arrives too late. When she first arrives in Smoke, Tally finds everyone hideously ugly because none of them conform to an ideal standard of beauty. However, Tally comes to appreciate the diversity of human features when she becomes attracted to David. By the time she realizes this, she has already inadvertently revealed the location of Smoke to Special Circumstances.
The Rejection of a Utopian Society
A common element of dystopian fiction is the rejection of utopia, or the...
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