Themes

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 223

The Universe Against Her and its sequels explore the theme of the individual being at her best when thrown back on her own resources. It emphasizes not only the potential strength of rugged individualism but also its sureness — that the best guide to the development of talent, provided that one has a solid foundation of good character to lay it on, is the intelligent person's own sensibility. Many times in the novel, this independence flies in the face of a large, complex society's tendency to over control its members, even those who are already quite conscientious. It can hobble its most productive members and blunt its own natural defense systems against criminals by its own distrust of the very individuals that make up its body.

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Telzey not only learns about these tendencies of civilization in order to overcome them; she also learns to make some of them work for her. She discovers that it can be to her advantage to outwardly appear, to everyone but her compatriots, to be a bright, pretty but otherwise quite ordinary teenage girl, especially to her criminal prey. Schmitz has an awareness of what might be called the psychological ecology of human society — the emergence of mental defenses similar to those physical ones seen in animal species in nature, such as camouflage, armoring, aggressiveness, or swift automatic responses.

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Characters