On the Millennium Trilogy

Resilience with a Dragon Tattoo

By Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D.

As soon as we step into her world, Lisbeth Salander challenges our sense of social norms, often to the point of discomfort and frustration. Her black lipstick, tattoos, and body piercings send out a clear message: “Keep your distance; visitors not welcome.” Her demeanor and presentation are defiant and withdrawn, belying a bottled rage lurking just beneath the surface. Simultaneously, however, we see another Salander that intrigues us and inspires admiration. We see someone who is capable, insightful, and determined, a relentless researcher with a talent for cyber-hacking that gives her unlimited, albeit often illegal, access to the workings of the world. Salander is a character of polar contrasts that defies assessment–a sort of punk rocker meets Robin Hood–compelling because of, and in spite of, her contradictions. She provokes disapproval, but her “acting out” is also a cry for help and validation. She looks small, young, and vulnerable, while at the same time seeming road-weary and hard. Her socially inept and emotionally bereft interpersonal interactions belie her intellectual acuity for identifying intricate logic patterns and mastering technology. However, Salander’s most remarkable trait is perhaps her resilience–her ability to “bounce back” after stressful and traumatic experiences, face down difficulty, and meet adversity head-on.

Like those whom Salander allows close to her–her employer Dragan Armansky, her guardian Holger Palmgren, and her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist–even when we feel distanced or frustrated by Salander’s interpersonal inadequacies, we nonetheless admire her undaunted persistence and courage, her physical and mental skills, and her survival in the  …

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