In The Thieves of Nottica, I deliberately used the appearance of each of the three main characters — Rigg, Hari, and Morganith — to make a subtle statement about beauty and appearance.
Rigg is ugly but actually loves herself. I did this on purpose, because to me, there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is not “mainstream magazine” beautiful and yet loves herself unapologetically and even defiantly. This woman, even though she is considered ugly, will wear nice things, flowers, jewelry, and carry herself with confidence. This woman, even though she is considered ugly, will not be so insecure that she treats attractive women poorly. Because this woman loves herself enough to love others as well. That’s Rigg.
Then we have Hari, who was sexually assaulted even though Rigg describes her as plain. Hari’s assault was not based on her appearance. It was about dominance and putting a woman in her place. Pirayo was a sexist and resented Hari — a woman — for being a powerful and influential leader of a famous band of thieves. He wanted to take her down a peg, and the easiest way to destroy her empire was to humiliate her. He destroyed the Keymasters simply because of his sexism and racism. But in the end, he destroyed nothing. The Keymasters went on, Hari went on, and Pirayo was killed by the very sort of person – a demon woman – he despised and viewed as inferior.
Morganith is purposefully described as utterly beautiful. The kind that turns heads. And her beauty does nothing for her except isolate her, draw unwanted attention, and encourage men (Osgood) to harass her. Morganith is the most unhappy Keymaster in the group because her beauty constantly stands in the way of people seeing her as a person with feelings. She is not a person much of the time but a sex object to many who encounter her. They don’t see her for who she is – tough, funny, caring, and a damned good fighter – they see her as a sexualized demon who must always want it.
And her being attractive also carries the stigma of her being stupid or stuck up, except we see again and again that she is not stupid and is actually quite down-to-earth, even embracing a scar on her face by referring to it as a war wound from a “proto-dinosaur.”
Even Arda was just with Morganith for her looks. This is not something I expounded upon but I’ve been thinking of going back and doing so. Arda was with Morganith because she was beautiful and charismatic. Arda never stopped to see the person behind the pretty face, and when she realized she had objectified Morganith and that she didn’t love her the same way, she felt guilty and broke up with her . . . but then kept sleeping with her, and that’s how the entire mess started: Arda got pregnant. Otherwise, the Keymasters would not have fallen into Pirayo’s trap in their attempt to raise money for an abortion.
In essence, Morganith’s beauty and Arda’s desire for her is what sets everything off in the novel itself.
Throughout the story, we see how others react to Morganith. Every single time, she is a sex object and never gets to be a person with feelings. We see her flirted with, which is harmless, but then we also see people make lewd comments or try to pressure her into sex. She herself is something of a flirt, half because she’s learned that sex is all people expect from her. Even in the end, she allows herself to be seduced by Natasha – not the other way around – in a manipulative attempt to gain the trust of the Keymasters. Morganith, like all beautiful women, must learn to keep people at arm’s length or risk being used simply for sex.
It is a very lonely existence and very isolating. And yet, Morganith has friends in people like Rigg and Hari. Rigg, Hari, Kito, and Dinemi are the only people who see Morganith for the person she is behind her beauty. She has very few friends simply because of the way she looks, so from this perspective, it’s easy to see how she would be the one most hurt by Kito’s betrayal: she doesn’t have an endless plethora of people who can see her for the person she is and not a sex object.
Beauty is not a blessing but an incredibly isolating curse. It’s quite obvious if we ever take the time to see how famous beautiful women always die young, after having been used up and dried up as commodities by Hollywood.
I think Morganith summed herself up best when she was arguing with Hari and said something to the effect, “Look at me, Hari. Do I look happy to you?”