On the Millennium Trilogy

Mistrustful

Salander's Struggle with Intimacy
By Prudence Gourguechon

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy presents us with an intriguing contradiction: Lisbeth Salander assiduously avoids emotional attachments but, seemingly paradoxically, becomes very attached to Mikael Blomkvist. Can using psychoanalytic and attachment theory help us explain this apparent conundrum and their unexpected relationship?

Salander has a number of psychological difficulties, including a fear of intimacy and of emotional vulnerability. She is both fearful of and wants to be understood. She wants to be evaluated by her true qualities, not her superficial appearance. But these are only a heightened version of dilemmas all humans face in navigating their way through relationships, both those of friendship and of love. What is wrong with Salander is not that she is abnormal or inhuman, as many characters perceive her, but that she is so deeply human. She keeps her distance because she can too easily feel penetrated, intruded upon, controlled, and violated–fears all of us grapple with to greater and lesser degrees.

There is a great deal of psychoanalytic and psychological knowledge that can help us understand Salander and the paradox she embodies regarding intimacy, and I want to give you a compact road map to the numerous theories and research findings I will be describing. We’ll begin with classical psychoanalysis and its valuable concept of intrapsychic conflict. From there I will head to some diagnostic considerations, including a detailed description of the traits exhibited by a person with schizoid personality disorder (and Salander fits within those criteria). Next we’ll visit attachment theory, after which I’ll discuss a  …

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