Morality of Lisbeth Salander

I was upset to find in the movie of Dragon a scene where Mikael asks Lisbeth if she let Martin burn under the flaming car whether she could have saved him and she answered “yes”. This is not characteristic of Lisbeth whom both Armansky and Blomkvist describe as a “a very moral person”. This did not happen in the book and should not have happened in the movie. Even if she DID want to save him she could not have moved a quite heavy man from under a burning car.

Lisbeth is very moral, which is why she cares so much about violence towards women. When she says to Mikael in the one book that she “would kill the f****er” she really does not mean it as she cannot get herself to kill Niederman in the warehouse in the third book.

The only time where Larsson makes a mistake on this is when Lisbeth calls the lawyer to tell him where Wennstrom is living and he is killed. The were many more times when she could have actually killed people as with her father but she did not when it came right down to it.

Right On Lisbeth!

Posted by Tiny in Vancouver , 9 January 2011

By Editor

26 thoughts on “Morality of Lisbeth Salander”
  1. Right you are. As interesting as the first film was it changed simple facts from the book when it didn’t need to. The 2nd and 3rd movies with a different director followed the books more accurately.

    Posted by hilogreg in Hawaii ,

  2. I was very impressed by the caracter of Liesbeth Salander. A great performance

    Posted by henk jansen in hoofddorp Netherlands ,

  3. I can’t recall anywhere in the trilogy of Lisbeth being the primary agent of someone’s death. Indirectly, sure, but directly, no.

    Posted by RQ in San Francisco ,

    1. Well the police and government were absolute rubbish. What did you expect? Had the police done their job Salander would not have needed to kill her father

  4. I don’t think Salander is moral at all. She hacks into peoples’ computers, steals their identities and their money, breaks into homes, commits fraud, cheats on taxes… The list goes on and on.

    What’s moral about her?

    Posted by Bob ,

    1. For evil to prevail all it takes is good men to do nothing. If miss Salander did not do any of that then Martin Vanger would still be killing Wennerstrome would have destroyed a good man’s life and Zala would be tortureing innocent women. Because she did all that evil did not win.

  5. “To live outside the law, you must be honest”. B. Dylan

    Could have been L. Salander as well. She may not be moral in the common sense, but she is strict and consistent about the principles she follows, and she holds herself to them just as much as she holds everyone else. If that is moral — and Kant would probably agree — then she is moral.

    Posted by eo in Copenhagen ,

  6. I think you’re taking the term moral to fit in more with what you’re idea of right and wrong is. When they say Lisabeth is moral they mean she has a very well defined sense of what she believes is right and wrong and she never compromises on these beliefs. Even if they may not be what society as a whole believes. As for watching watching Martin die it was my understanding that in the book she had every intention of doing the deed herself which seems considerably worse than just not saving him.

    Posted by Keith in Boise ,

  7. I agree with Keith. Think of the countless women Lisbeth saved by NOT rescuing Martin. Lisbeth is the epitome of morality. And, Bob, “cheats on taxes” ? Could anything be more immoral than taxes? Excessive taxation (and yes, I believe I pay an excessive amount) is nothing more than legalized extortion.

    Posted by Phyllis in Ann Arbor ,

  8. Interesting responses — I really do not see her as moral. I think she’s a taker and a voyeur — she has no respect for the boundaries of others. And think of a society of Lisbeth Salanders! There would be no presumption of innocence, no trials, evidence could be planted on your hard drive by hackers, everything you owned could just be taken (by someone with their own sense of right and wrong). And the “cheating on taxes” — big no no in Sweden. How could they pay for all the social programs if everybody did it the Salander way?

    The thing about her that bothered me the most was the hacking into Mikael’s computer, going through all his private stuff — I just thought that was really creepy and such a violation.

    Posted by Bob ,

  9. She’s moral and also a real person who has been victimized. Does she think of herself first OF COURSE in her experience no one else did. She’s been abused. She is also a survivor and no one has said it A GENIUS and hangs out with other genius/tortured types (Plague). But she values important things like her relationship in the 2nd novel. I like how in the movie she uses the cigarette holder her girlfriend gave her to dig herself out of the ditch. She is of the “don’t start no shi*t-won’t be no Sh*t school of hard knocks.

    Posted by java in Indiana, USA ,

  10. There is two tracks to this question.

    First, the simple fact is abused people may retreat into a neurosis mimicking a sociopath’s lack of affect and empathy. But they DO relate to others – the social interactions that signal emotion and empathy are simply locked deep inside.

    Second, when your “support structure” of home and environment is dysfunctional, you have to contrive your own ethical system

    In short, Lisbeth is “inward” yet has an autonomous Ethical system. Killing is only unethical if it is done to satisfy only one’s own ego inflation or has no umbrella social benefit.

    Killing by direct killing or “letting die” of someone like a serial killer is certainly inside the scope of protecting society. Her lack of affect is not a shortcoming,

    Posted by Leo Rivers in Cottage Grove Oregon ,

  11. I dont think Salander is immoral. She has learnt to survive on her own and built her own belief system on what she believes is fair. The computer hacking thing is wrong maybe but in the grand scheme of things she has to look after herself. Not a great philosophical approach but none the less that my opinion

    Posted by enid.frigten in derby ville ,

  12. I doubt that any of us would want our daughter to have the “morality” of Lisbeth Salander. However were there any readers who didn’t fall madly in love with the character?

    Posted by Buckrroo in Montgomery ,

  13. God sets the standard for morality and nowhere near those standards of right and wrong does she come. Nor do goverments who claim, to live by standards of right and wrong. People do not set there own standard of what morals are, they set their own standard of what is immortal.

    She does what she does to survive in a world that has given her no protection.

    Her mother couldn’t take care of herself, let alone a daughter. The only daughter she recalled was Camille not Lisbeth.

    Her father didn’t care about her one way or another until she set him on fire. Then had her committed to a mental home to be torchered, for the rest of her life. Even when she got out of there, the govermental authorities were tring to control her, with her fathers blessings no dought.

    Her brother had no feeling for her or anybody else, maybe some automatic loyalty for his father.

    He caregivers all used and abused her, while they were collecting their wages to do it.

    The only people to she trusted to a small degree was Mikael and maybe the doctor in the last movie.

    A Principled person yes! A moral person, NO!

    Fall in love with her NO! Be intrigued by her YES.

    Posted by Debra in New Zealand ,

  14. Lisbeth Salander is a moral person. She is as moral as the next person. Her rights were violated severly so she took action. Everyone here is saying that she is immoral. They fail to realize that Salander does wrong things for the RIGHT reasons. She tattoes Bjurman because he rapes her. She tries to kill her father because he beat her mother so hard she died after years of suffering and got her locked in a mental ward for a year. She lets Martin die because he was trapped under a car and he deserved to die after he raped and murdered so many girls it made her sick.

    Lisbeth Salander is nothing short of a role model.

    Posted by GO_ SALANDER in STOCKHOLM ,

  15. Lisbeth is one of the most moral person I’ve heard of in a long time. She killed because it was the principle thing to do, and I bet most of you out there would do the same. And like what Phyllis said, taxes are one of the most immoral thing on earth. So long story short, Lisbeth Salander had every right to do what she did to get her revenge on humanity.

    Posted by Diana in London ,

  16. Lisbeth sense of morality came from her sadly dysfunctional upbringing. The most wounded and abused individuals in our society learn to cope with different mechanisms than those more fortunate. Her low emotional IQ dominated her actions, in comparison, her intellectual IQ was not good enough to truly save her.

    At the end of the third book, she finds her material and physical needs met, but her soul is still pretty much broken. She made her own rules when it came to morality. But society as a whole could never function this way, the result would be total chaos. In her case is understandable, (you feel so sorry for her) but on moral grounds it is not justifiable. A book by the name of “A boy called it” comes to mind. This is a true story of someone who was sadistically abused as a child, but managed to overcome his past. Lisbeth makes a great fictional unorthodox type of charachter, but that is all. She should not be any one’s role model. Love the books, will there be a 4th one?

    Posted by marylu in Texas ,

  17. I would describe her moral code as consistently applied, yet perfunctory. Particular moral notions she rejected were done so by a rational and justifiable process (e.g. obeying certain social conventions, cooperating with police), but some were not.

    Lisbeth’s moral code is laced with venomous cynicism, and an almost acid-like revulsion of trust and dependence on other people. If she had no bootstraps, she would yank herself up by the hair on the back of her neck. In this sense, she is very individualistic and conservative.

    The vast majority of her moral outrage is directed towards men who exploit and dominate women. However, I see little to none of that valorous energy expended on other forms of domination and tyranny. She allowed her lawyer to invest the money she embezzled into basically anything that he wanted. Lisbeth did not have any scruples towards corporations that use child labor, exploit Third World workers, or hire death squads to liquidate union leaders and political activists. She did not give two shits. All that concerned her was that she had enough money to never work again. She may have justified living off the labor of others by thinking about the person she took the money from, demonstrating that she did not understand two wrongs don’t make a right.

    In fact she does not possess a moral code or moral principles: rather, she has a set of very sharpened moral reflexes that cause her to behave with ruthless consistency towards perceived injustice (i.e. violence against women) in her immediate world.

    The oil that always kept her engine going was a volatile mix of militant feminism, indiscriminate cynicism, rationalism, and unapologetic self-interest (even self-absorption). Consistent, but not rational. Stuck to with resolute determination, but never reflected on or expanded. Honorable even, but based on visceral and involuntary experiences she had in her childhood.

    All this being said, these imperfections are what make her such an interesting and riveting character. She is the reason that I spent two whole days of my life (12 hours per day) sitting at my computer, reading non-stop until I had finished books two and three. I have never devoted such a long period of my life to reading before. I guess I can cross it off my bucket list now!

    Posted by mojo.rhythm in Hooville ,

  18. Personally, I find her morality to be perfectly ordinary and normal, as in, I’d have done the same things had I been able to get away with it. What you call morality seems to be more a question of ethics, e.g. taking the bigger picture of society and systematized morality into view; we don’t take blood venegance for our personal grievances or make personal judgments over others because it leads to revenge spirals and blood flowing in the streets. However if we hypothezise a person living outside of society, as Lisbeth does, this does not apply. She doesn’t care the least about how it’d be if everyone acted like her, that’s irrelevant.

    And yes, I’m Swedish, though I don’t see how that makes a difference.

    Posted by whiteline in Linköping ,

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