Lisbeth Salander: No Giving Up

This entry by Ankita Prasad won 2nd place at the Women’s Web My Favourite Female contest. Ankita lives in Bangalore and reads and travels a lot. In between the reading and the travelling, she manages to earn her living by writing code at a software company.

My favorite female fictional character is Lisbeth Salander of the Millenium Series. The series is written by Stieg Larsson.It consists of three books : ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’, ‘The girl who played with fire’ and ‘The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest’. Stieg Larsson has done a beautiful job of fleshing out Lisbeth’s character through out the series. In the beginning of the series we see Lisbeth as an asocial but astoundingly intelligent punk chick. As a techie who lives and breaths a world which has a low female to male ratio, the fact that Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander is an expert hacker tickled me pink.

In a society were women are expected to toe societal norms to a larger extent than men do, it was a pleasure to read about a girl who always dealt with society on her own terms, without giving an inch. What also caught my attention and held it tight was Lisbeth’s unwillingness to play the victim. In the first book of the series we find her getting raped and sodomized by someone who was supposed to be her guardian. Instead of cowering under such brutality, Lisbeth goes about extracting her revenge with cold blooded deliberation. She does not think of going to the authorities as the authorities have repeatedly let her down. The reader is appalled with what happens to her and the absolute lack of trust that she justifiably has in the system, but not for a moment does one think of her as a victim, a “poor her”, or somebody who inspires pity.

As the series progresses we delve into Lisbeth’s past and her evolution into a loner, one who has a strict measure of right and wrong and one who is not afraid to mete out her own brand of judgement. One might not always agree with Lisbeth Salander’s definitions of people, love , right and wrong, but one is always left amazed by Lisbeth’s ability to fight, survive and land on her feet like the proverbial cat. Lisbeth’s emotional vulnerability is also something that touched a cord. Her interaction with her mother who is mentally fading, her lover Miriam who she is closest to or Blomkvist a sometime lover and friend, show someone who trusts sparingly and with difficulty.

Lisbeth Salander doesn’t know the meaning of the term ‘giving up’. Whether it is in a boxing match against someone who is double her weight or when she is buried in soil waiting to be proclaimed dead. Her incapability to stop long after many a stronger men would have risen their hands in defeat, is not an attitude or something she learnt. It comes across as a way of being. It is as if she doesn’t know an existence in which she didn’t achieve what she started out to, because the goal was too big or too difficult or too dangerous. She does not calculate what her destination will cost her. She would continue to get there, till she is dead.


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