(Spoiler alert for book readers) I wanted to do a hero that isn't the typical "hero" image. Set during winter in Stockholm, Switzerland, Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a 24-year-old 4' 11" petite woman weighing hardly 100Ibs who dresses like a goth with piercings and tattoos. She is often mistaken for a 14-year-old. At the time I read this novel, I related instantly to this character because I too was in my early 20s, 4' 11" (no joke), petite, and often (SO OFTEN) mistaken for a teen. Throughout the novel, there is this constant motif of inaccurate judgements due to one's appearance. Lisbeth Salander is laconic and withdrawn to the point that she is judged by others to be incompetent. But in reality, however, she is an extraordinarily intelligent hacker and very capable of taking care of herself. She dishes out justice to those who wrong her and even saves Mike Blomkvist life at the end of the novel. Lisbeth Salander is one of my favorite female protagonists. She is misjudged due to her personality, her past, and appearance. Ultimately, she uses the misjudgments of others to her benefit.
Throughout the text, Salander occupies the role of both victim and survivor. Assaulted repeatedly and brutally by her guardian, Salander seems aware that others perceive her as a victim, but she doesn’t view herself as one because she sees the oppression and brutalization of women as endemic to society. In other words, she is not being singled out for abuse, and so views the abuse as a general problem rather than one directed at her personally. Ultimately, her notable outbursts of violence against her guardian in the novel exemplify both Salander’s desire to secure her own survival in the face of overwhelming odds and to punish those who victimize the powerless. Additionally, almost all of Salander’s actions serve to secure her independence and give her the means to protect herself.