Download You're Ugly Too Study Guide

Subscribe Now

You're Ugly Too Summary

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘You’re Ugly, Too’’ is a much more character-driven story than it is a plot-driven one. With a sparse plot, but layered with anecdotes and flashbacks that reveal the main character to be cynical and dismissive in her relationships with nearly everyone in her life, especially men, the story offers a glimpse into the thoughts and daily life of an unmarried Midwestern history professor who flies to Manhattan to spend Halloween weekend with her younger sister.

Although narrated in the third person, ‘‘You’re Ugly, Too’’ is told from the point of view of Zoë Hendricks who, when the story opens, has been teaching at Midwest colleges for four years. Her first teaching stint was in New Geneva, Minnesota, or ‘‘Land of the Dying Shopping Mall’’ where ‘‘[e]veryone was so blond . . . that brunettes were often presumed to be from foreign countries.’’ Her liberal arts students in Paris, Illinois, where she currently teaches—‘‘by and large good Midwesterners, spacey with estrogen from large quantities of meat and cheese . . . [who share] their parents’ suburban values . . . [and who seem] to know very little about anything. . . . ’’—do not fare much better in her eyes. Known for her eccentric behavior— students complain about her singing in class, for instance, and when asked by one student what perfume she is wearing, Hendricks replies, ‘‘Room freshener’’—she is tolerated by her ‘‘department of nine men. . . .’’ After all, the department had recently faced a sex-discrimination suit and the men are in need of a ‘‘feminine touch to the corridors.’’

Hendricks lives alone in Paris and has had poor luck in meeting men. Of the three men she has dated since moving to the Midwest, the first was a Paris bureaucrat who surveyed his own pectorals while driving and who became incensed when she brushed an ant onto his car floor. ‘‘Now it’s going to lay eggs in my car!’’ he complained. Her second date conY cluded his emotion-filled critique of a piece of museum art by saying, ‘‘A painting like that. . . . It just makes you sh——t.’’ And her third and final date was with a political science professor who liked to go on double dates with friends so he could flirt and play footsie with their wives in restaurants.

One of Hendricks’s characteristic features is that she loves to tell jokes, often at the expense of her immediate audience. In fact, she is writing a book on humor, and her entire life, and this story, seems to be held together with one joke after another. Her jokes usually have a sarcastic and cynical edge to them, and she usually tells them with utter disregard for the situation. Even when severe abdominal pains force her to undergo ultrasound tests that we are all but told reveal a perilous growth inside of her, she is relentless in her sarcasm. Her favorite joke, which is the source of the story’s title, is about a man who is told by his doctor that he has six weeks to live. The man says he wants another opinion. ‘‘You want a second opinion? OK,’’ says the doctor. ‘‘You’re ugly, too.’’

‘‘You’re Ugly, Too’’ comprises anecdotes and flashbacks that effectively paint Hendricks as a cynical, dismissive, lonely and possibly depressed character. The only ‘‘action’’ in the story takes place when her younger sister, Evan, invites her to Manhattan where Evan and her boyfriend are hosting a Halloween party. At the party, Evan introduces her to Earl, a recent divorcé, who is dressed as a naked woman with ‘‘large rubber breasts protruding like hams.’’ Wearing a bonehead costume (‘‘It’s this thing that looks like a giant bone going through your head,’’ she had told her sister), Hendricks engages in conversation with Earl, who wants to talk about love and relationships. Hendricks, however, dismisses him by replying with lies, vague allusions, and a long story that ends with the protagonist shooting herself in...

(The entire section is 1,485 words.)