By this time a lot of people know of the trilogy by Stieg Larsson beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If I’m not mistaken, at least one movie has been made. But it still may be worth commenting on. The trilogy is extremely well put together, thrillers tightly plotted, and with things to say. Maybe it’s especially worth commenting on because of the increased popularity of mistreating people who are different.
And the main character of the series is a young woman who has been drastically mistreated. Many people who get badly mistreated remain victims for the rest of their lives: Lisbeth Salander is different. When she’s bullied she strikes back, and she gets drastically mistreated. When she strikes back, she often strikes back violently, as that’s the only language her tormentors seem to understand. As often happens in sports, the authorities notice her retaliation, not what led up to it. The result is that she has no trust in authorities (Libertarians should be able to relate to that), and simply wants people to leave her in peace. But many are unwilling. Still, she has character, which people she comes in contact with notice, and respect, even though she’s extremely shy about telling people anything about herself. Understandably so, with that kind of background.
The other theme of the book is men who do violence to women, ranging through “ordinary” abuse to sexual murder. That’s another thing that’s either become quite popular or always has been. It’s hard to see that kind of behavior as anything but bullying: women are not as physically strong as men, are therefore more vulnerable (especially when pregnant), and are generally safe targets. Most bullies tend to get upset when they become targets rather than the intiators of violence. Not exactly the most inspiring aspect of human nature.
Salander has some advantages in life, though: she’s extremely bright, though not given to boasting. She’s a world-class computer hacker, which makes her an extremely competent researcher for a security company, which is how she makes her living, and she fears no one. Despite being less than five feet tall and weighing less than 90 pounds, she’ll take on anyone. During the series she takes on a serial killer, thereby rescuing a friend, and later manages to beat up a couple of Hells Angels types, with the help of Mace and a Taser. Apparently they have those in Sweden too, where most of this story is set.
I’m not going to try to explain all the twists and turns of the plot. It runs over 3 long books, employs many characters, and is complicated. Let’s just say that it’s also a very satisfying read, if you like to see justice done and bullies get their just desserts. There are quite a few such bullies in this book, including bullies in the government. Salander is frequently accused of having no empathy, but it’s really the bullies who can’t seem to leave her alone that have none. It would be nice to think that some bullies would read these books, see themselves, and begin to reform, but that seems unlikely. If bullies had empathy, they wouldn’t be bullies in the first place. Unfortunately, bullies are a commodity we never seem to run out of.
Among other things, Larsson’s novels are an ode to friendship. Friends are the people willing to put it on the line for you. Lisbeth Salander demonstrates that quality and evokes it in others, even though she doesn’t want to be dependent on anyone. Another theme of the book is her unwillingness to depend on anyone, and her increasing realization that she can, and sometimes must, depend on others, and that this isn’t a terrible thing. She finds that not everyone is a bully, that there are people who respect her and are willing to stand up for her, to repair the injustice that has been done her, but also to encourage her to be responsible in ways she’s unused to. Odd though she is (she reads mathematics books for fun), she’s also an admirable character. The books are deservedly popular. It would be nice if many people could take the appropriate lessons from them.