Sunday, July 4, 2010

Giving Women What They Want

By Laura P. Valtorta

Stieg Larsson, (1954 – 2004) the Swedish author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (in Sweden originally titled Men who Hate Women), The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, wrote books that are wildly successful because they give women what they want: a strong female character who defies every despicable stereotype. The character, Lisbeth Salander, lives the way she wants in a society that tries its best to suppress her. More than 27 million copies of Larsson’s novels have been sold in 40 countries.

There is no doubt in my mind that Larsson’s longtime companion, Eva Gabrielsson, helped invent the characters in these novels, especially Lisbeth Salander. Full credit must be given, however, to Larsson for being strong enough to write such a fantastic female character, who steals the show from Blomquist, the character who may be Larsson’s alter ego.

But to say that Blomquist is Larsson’s alter ego is unfair. Every character is part of the author’s psyche. Lisbeth is Larsson.

Lisbeth Salander exists in a world of misogynists, a world that is constantly trying to beat her down. She thrives, nevertheless, because she displays so little emotion. For a five-foot-tall woman she is exceedingly strong, physically, and knows how to use weapons and fight. She always protects herself and successfully fights off the larger men who try to kill her. She has sex when she wants, with whom she wants, and then she walks away unscathed. (Except for Blomquist, who is the love of her life, but whom she ignores when he goes off with another woman.) She excels at math and science and makes her living as a computer hacker. She depends on no one.

There are no children in Lisbeth Salander’s world. No husband. She makes her own money – lots of it – and spends it as she wants – on a luxury apartment and lots of travel. Nothing ties her down. When the time comes, she drives off on her motorbike, leaving the expensive apartment, and its IKEA furnishings behind.

This is the dream world, the ideal world that Stieg Larsson has given us. It is a wonderful gift.

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