Get inside Lisbeth Salander’s head: The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By December 1st, 2011 Comments Off on Get inside Lisbeth Salander’s head: The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Each season we announce our new titles individually, each in their own post, to give you a little extra background behind the book. If you’ve missed any, you can check them all out here. Fall 2011’s intro posts are here.


On December 21, 2012, the American film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo premieres. I confess: I haven’t seen the Swedish version. I hear it’s pretty incredible. But at least judging by the trailer, this new version looks pretty incredible too:

In the months since the film was first announced, most of the discussion has–as it did for the book–surrounded the Millennium trilogy’s heroine, Lisbeth Salander . . . the subject of the latest addition to our Psychology of series, The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (a collection of psychologists all writing about Lisbeth herself).

Some people call her an original; others call her clich©. As Luisita Torres noted last year on Politics Daily: “She’s hot. She’s cool. She’s violent and gentle . . . sexual and frigid.” She’s a victim. She’s a superhero. She’s–as editors Robin Rosenberg, PhD, and Shannon O’Neill note–“one of the most enigmatic and intriguing characters you’ll ever come across–an astoundingly intelligent, prickly bundle of contradictions.” Lisbeth Salander is, as one of the book’s contributors very astutely noted, a Goth-punk Rorschach test: our responses to her, the way we see her and the way we interpret her actions, says as much about us as it does about her.

The duality of Lisbeth–in her character, and in our reactions to her–is one of the ongoing themes of The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. From an analysis of perceptions of the Goth community (both from outside and from within) to a look at what Lisbeth has in common with other polarizing women in our world, the contributors return frequently to Lisbeth’s apparent contradictions, and which of them can be resolved in a way that helps us better understand her and the series as a whole.

But that’s far from the only question Lisbeth raises, or the only question about her The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo engages with. From the book’s introduction:

Reading a good book is like undertaking an investigation: as readers we comb through paragraphs and pages . . . to build a coherent, compelling picture of a complete world. When we come to the end of a book and snap shut the cover, we often feel satisfied that our investigation is over. Our questions have been answered; the “case” is closed. But the books that truly affect us–whether thrillers, mysteries, or stories of unrequited love–often don’t give us a complete sense of closure. They raise questions that linger long after the last page . . . But for many of us, the central case to be cracked in the trilogy is that of Lisbeth Salander: who she truly is, what she really wants, and what she has to tell us about our world and ourselves.

(If you want to read the rest: signing up for book updates, below or on our book page, will also net you a PDF of the full introduction, plus Marisa Mauro’s version of the analysis the court psychologist in the series’ third book should have done, delivered right to your inbox.)

The book is broken into three parts: “The Girl with the Armored Fa§ade” (discussing her tough exterior, both literally and figuratively); “The Girl with the Tornado Inside” (delving deeper into her history, and the trauma she’s suffered); and “The Girl Who Couldn’t Be Stopped” (the ways in which Lisbeth has taken that trauma and transformed it into power). You can see the full table of contents over on the book page, plus, soon, read the first 250 words of each essay.

In the end, I think you’ll come away, as I did, with a much richer portrait of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as well as her relationships with Blomkvist, her family, and the rest of her world.

Sign up below for book updates, including a FREE EXCERPT for The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:

Bonus link! A peek at the Lisbeth Salander-inspired H&M clothing line from the New York Post.

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