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Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 10th, 2020


In the novel “the girl with a dragon tattoo”, Lisbeth Salander lives in an unbelievable world. She is spoilt and vulnerable from a tender age since she lacks proper role models to offer her guidance about life. In the second novel, there is an indicator that Salander’s father has psychopathic elements and her mother could not defend her from the cruelty of her father. Her brother has symptoms of the autistic disorder and this means the family has lots of problems. Salander is living in a world of her own where there are difficulties and she is unable to behave correctly and socialize with others in the society (McDonald-Smith and Young 65). Salander is considered an outcast since she is a bisexual who cannot trust men. The only man she can trust is the computer hacker. According to the novel, “she ought to be an outcast, anxiety-riddled, depressed and with social phobic tendencies, perhaps with an ongoing addiction” (McDonald-Smith and Young 68).

Salander is distressed cognitively and she cannot observe the connections in her life as an adult since there was nobody to guide her from the early age. Salander has a disorder and that is why she finds it hard to interact with others though she is smart. Salander portrays controversial behaviors of feminism and those who observe her behaviors are confused at the message she portrays to women (McDonald-Smith and Young 60).

Character of Salander

When we consider the character of Lisbeth Salander, she is very original in her acting like a female and grabs her role without letting go. In the novel, Salander works together with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist to find solutions of some mysteries of murder. This is after the journalist finds out that Salander has already hacked into his system.

Salander suffers from Asperger’s disorder and this makes her think like a genius as well as carry a non-emotive personality. From the beginning of the novel, Salander has outstanding characteristics that lead to the conclusion that she is an exceptional creature. The character she poses within the novel is almost never seen in women. During her development period, Salander’s growth was complicated as she was abused by her caregivers as they treated her as an outcast by those who were supposed to take care of her.

The look of Salander is boyish because of the tattoos and piercings. She has skills in the computer world as well as punishing misogynist performers. Her issue of being an outsider is portrayed from the tattoos such as “I am a rapist”, which she engraves on a caregiver who is abusive (McDonald-Smith and Young 70). Her feminist character is fulfilled by such acts and she does not agree to connect with the government or the police in any form of investigation. Salander does not care about the existence of the law and commits the crime without considering the ethics, social etiquette or the law.

Salander’s character showcases a female personality of a heroine who feels no mercy for those who have offended her. Her life has been threatened by those who do not understand her background as well as those who have the responsibility of providing her with the necessary care and guidance. Her status of being an outsider has separated her from others of her class but this does not worry her. Her role is to prove a point that everyone who has impacted her life negatively should pay for that mistake. Salander is not refined but rather radical in the way she deals with issues. According to Laura Miller, Salander is “vendetta personified” (McDonald-Smith and Young 65).

In the novel, Salander once gives in to social pressure by getting a breast augmentation though she has a large physique that she uses for her revenge missions. Her character demonstrates anomaly since she eludes the male gaze. Her main aim is to wreak vengeance rather than assist the victims and this demonstrates the character of a defiant woman who is genuine in her character though she is seen to be an outcast.

Feminist Role

Salander has a male partner, Blomkvist, who is a journalist and he gains sexual interest in all the women she comes across including Salander. The author of the novel has demonstrated male fantasy in the novel. The journalist has a parallel career with that of the author who is too good to have any flaws. The authors psyche is intruded upon and his character as an anti-sexist undermined (Irwin 76).

When we listen to the scripts of Salander, her tone denotes a person who is ready to do any form of evil for vengeance. She says to Blomkvist, “it’s not an insane serial killer….. It’s a common or garden bastard who hates women” (McDonald-Smith and Young 75). Her words can be connected to the troubles she has been through from an early age and it is because of what she has been through that all her fears have been eradicated. The character demonstrated by Salander represents women as heroines because of the role she plays in dealing with those who have abused her in the past and in the present. She does not care about what the law says but deals ruthlessly with those who offend her intelligence.

Asperger’s Syndrome

In the script, Salander can be connected to the symptoms of Asperger’s disorder. The symptoms of this disease can be hereditary and it changes the behaviors of those affected (Irwin 76). There are symptoms that exist in patients who suffer from this disorder such as:

  • Reduced rate of social interaction
  • Changes in behavioral patterns and interests
  • Reduced operational capacity
  • Cognitive development is not derailed
  • Radical disorder during growth

When we consider the symptoms of Asperger’s disorder, there is a possibility that Salander could be suffering from this disorder. She has the inability to sustain close relations and after seducing the journalist, she gets out of bed immediately after the act. The journalist is surprised and demands a reason as to why she is leaving but none is given. She shows no signs of fear and at the time where she had the chance to save Martin Vranger after he veered off the road, she decides not to do so and chooses to watch as he is screaming for help. Blomkvist does not understand why she reacted that way but she claims “he was a rapist and a murderer” (Irwin 80). Salander feels that any wrong should be paid with a wrong and any right with a right. This is her principle of survival.

In a society that is governed by law, issues of vengeance are against the law but this is not in the formula of Salander. When the journalist explains that he understand her decision not to save Martin was because of her background, she reacts positively and says “thank you”. This remains the only time in the novel that she demonstrates closeness.

There is a time in the script where she is released from custody yet she cannot say thank you. She does not feel concerned that she has been released and as other are celebrating her release, she moves on with her life, a life of loneliness. People with Asperger’s disorder are treated for symptoms such as depression, anxiety and sleep disorders though the treatment is not effective.

Salander does not mind whether her actions are right or wrong so long as she feels contented with whatever she is doing. She moves form moral, ethical and legal boundaries without any form of fear. She questions the necessity of her actions after they have already happened. After inscribing the tattoo on the guardian, she questions her reasoning but on the other hand, she feels that the bastard deserved such kind of treatment.

Slander highlights her spot as an outsider as she bares autistic character traits and yet she maintains tension and strength all through the scripts. She commits actionsSalander that not even men would dare engage in. She is only saved from the law by the Asperger’s disorder. From the provocative dressing, short skirts, spiky hair, tattoos and piercings, the character or behaviors of Salander can be misjudged to those of a stereotype.

From the scene, one can almost tell what is to happen from the scripts where poses with a cold gaze and reduced interaction often seeming to lack emotions. She also holds back information that can assist in the investigation processes and she is a genius when it comes to using technology in solving criminal acts (Bryant 311). Salander is born with these powers though corrupt people in her life have changed her attitude about life and moral reasoning.

Though Salander might seem strong as a character, she has self-doubt and she is not happy with everything she does. Her world is made different by past experiences as well as her mental condition. Not everybody would notice that she is mentally disturbed though understanding the symptoms associated with certain mental conditions helps us realize that she is not as healthy as she might seem (Irwin 55).

Salander has friends though she never wants them to find out about her actions as they sometimes oppose her ideas yet she finds pleasure in whatever she engages in. Salander is a genius when it comes to hacking and her memory is photographic. She can picture almost everything that happened to her during her development and this is what makes her very bitter. She plays the role of an investigator and she is perfect when exposing those who are corrupt in the society (Irwin 76). Many do not understand her role in the society and feel she is corrupt. Her role is to protect the weak in the community from those whose role is to oppress others.

Salander changes her personality when revenging on just deeds to women by men during her daily work since it is the force that drives her to take action. There are serious events in her life that make her behave in the way she behaves without considering the necessity of the law or making ethical considerations about her behaviors. Blomkvist misjudges her that she has no ethics and morals but she realizes of her seriousness once he is saved.

On the other hand, Salander feels that the journalist is naïve about some moral issues (Bryant 311). She feels that the journalist does not understand the single language that is used in the world. The language used is of brutal force and violence. Salander feels that men who oppress the weak in the society should be exterminated. In her world, Salander feels that some issues should not be compromised but rather instant action should be taken to remove the evil from the society. According to Salander, any man that hurts a woman should be punished or killed to ensure he never hurts anybody again (Irwin 66).

There is an ethical dilemma in Salander’s arguments considering she completes her actions and then questions their importance. She is viewed to be an outsider considering that not many women would fit in her shoes. When we consider her scripts, we are confused on how we can judge her actions regarding morals and ethics in the society.

From the beginning of the book, we are sure that Salander will meet the journalist though it takes time before they meet. Salander is raped by Bjurman and she needs somebody to help her. When she eventually meets Blomkvist, she cannot tell him the secrets of her life. She is ashamed of what she has gone through in her life to share it with Blomkvist. Her character is complicated considering her actions yet she fears how people will judge him if they find out about her behaviors.

She should have shared her past with Blomkvist considering he cannot judge her on her past but would rather offer her the needed support. Blomkvist is very supportive by not judging her actions though he knows she is into hacking.

Armansky and Salander

Armansky is Salander’s boss and he feels that she has extraordinary intelligence. Armansky also feels that Salander is “headed for disaster”. Her behaviors are weird and this makes her boss mad and suspicious of her actions. Her boss is attracted to her but Salander has her principles. Though she could be attracted to the guy, she does not flirt with married men and of all the people her boss. Salander trusts her boss to some degree but she cannot reveal her secrets to him as it would turn up to be a weak point of which the boss can use to control her every move.


When we focus on the sex life of Salander, we realize that it plays a big part of her life. In her affairs with Blomkvist, we find out that she is the initiator of the sex escapades. Not many women in the society initiate sex; they wait for men to initiate the encounters. Furthermore, we understand that during the end of her teen-age, she had some dozen sexual associates within two years (Bryant 312). This is not a thing with most women. Most women do not fall out of relationships and into the next. They take their time before they embark on dating or having another sexual partner unless they are prostitutes on the streets who do not care about the number of intimate partners they have in a single day.

Considering this number of sexual partners, we can say that Salander was somehow out of power and she could not control her life. She used sex to let out her feelings in a destructive way as she was also engaging in alcohol. After she acquired the job, her focus on sex changed and she has a better approach to sex. Sexuality in Salander’s life makes her an outcast as she enjoys sex with men and women alike.

she did not give a damn about labels, did not see it was anybody else’s business who she spent her nights with. If she had to choose, she preferred guys […] The only problem was finding a guy who was not a jerk, and who was good in bed- Mimmi was a sweet compromise [….]” (Bryant 312).

There is nowhere we meet Mimmi in the scripts though before Blomkvist intrudes to Salander’s house in the morning, we are made to understand she spent the night there.

Salander and Blomkvist

Salander is appreciated by Blomkvist immediately they meet. Even Salander can see the appreciation. The two meet not long after Salander is raped by Bjurman. Most of those studying the scripts can already pity her considering what she has been through in her life. Most readers are not concerned about the physical abuse but rather how Blomkvist can hurt her feelings (Shmoop Editorial Team). Blomkvist is not aware of her past and this increases the sympathy for her.

The readers know a lot about Salander than Blomkvist. It is hard to express the real feelings of Blomkvist to Salander though we know that he is connected to her for saving her life and this might be the only reason they get intimate. Salander is not worried about sleeping with Blomkvist though she does not know how he feels about their intimate encounters. Not many women would do this. Salander does not question Blomkvist on whether he has any feelings for her. This is awkward and it somehow reveals that her mind is not stable.


When we focus on the novel, there are lots of complications in the life of Salander. First, her development life is full of abuses from her caregivers. Salander lives a bitter life considering that she cannot trust anybody with her life. She has to take care of herself and it hurts her so much that people she should have trusted have turned out to be villains in her life. This is the main reason that Salander chooses to use actions to treat these people a lesson. She does not mind about the law or the morals and ethics in the society when undertaking these actions. She takes pleasure in these actions. She feels that men who oppress or humiliate women in the society should be killed or punished so that they do not repeat their acts again (Shmoop Editorial Team).

Salander’s role in the novel is portrayed to be that of an outsider considering that her behaviors cannot be compared to those of most women in the society. He avenges the unjust acts of men in the society without considering the rule of law. She has Asperger’s disorder and this acts as a scapegoat as to why she behaves differently from the rest. Her family life was problematic and this has affected her whole life since she cannot forget the past due to her photographic memory. The novel enriches our minds about behaving morally in the society as we never know what tomorrow holds and what goes around comes around. We might oppress others but in the wrong run we might come to regret our actions. A few Salanders in the society would be more effective as they would ensure that the oppressors are punished or removed from the society.

Works Cited

Bryant, Wayne M. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Journal of Bisexuality 12.2 (2012): 311-313. Print.

Irwin, William. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy: Everything is Fire. Ed. Eric Bronson. Vol. 40. John Wiley & Sons, 2011. Print.

McDonald-Smith, Lynne, and Robert, Young. The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Understanding Lisbeth Salander and Stieg LarssonÕs Millennium Trilogy. Eds. Robin S. Rosenberg, and Shannon O’Neill. BenBella Books, Inc., 2011. Print.

Shmoop Editorial Team. “Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 2008. Print.

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