Accounts of Violence Against Women: The Potential of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Fictional Trilogy
Roberta Villalon, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
As I read the international best seller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy written by Stieg Larsson, I was struck by the power of his fictional stories of violence against women. His detailed depictions of torture, sexual harassment, rape, and battering far from being overdramatic or exaggerated, were shockingly realistic. His prose was so close to the experiences that real women have gone through now and then, here and there, that I often forgot that I was just reading a novel. Pieces of the narration of how the protagonist was raped by her guardian read as quotes of testimonies of women who had reported their violations to advocates in nonprofit organizations providing services to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Sections of the description of the kidnapping, torture and murderous affair in Hedeby in the first volume, and Nykvarn in the second, read as quotes from testimonies of survivors of violence during the military regime in Argentina, as they were put together in the report Nunca Mas (Never Again) after the return of democracy in 1983, and other testimony-based books. The description of how Salander’s mother was abused to death by her husband, Lisbeth’s psychopathic father, and how this affected Lisbeth and her sister read as quotes from the many affidavits I gathered as an advocate for immigrant survivors of violence. The realism of Larsson’s accounts has created both attraction and repulsion: even if there are people who cannot get through the violence of his books and thus decide not to read them, the high volume of sold copies and the overall feminist and critical perspective that the author presents in his trilogy seem to indicate that the call to end violence against women has been pushed further and broadly as a result of his successful novels. In my essay, I ponder how fictional writing may present risks and opportunities for those involved in the struggle to end violence against women by looking into the parallels of Larsson’s fictional narration of violence against women with the real narration of cases of violence against women in the Americas. Does the fictional illuminate the realism of the violence, or does it allow for violence to be taken as a spectacle that some dare to read about while others continue to ignore because of its extreme ruthlessness?