Lisbeth is an anti-hero. As the novel’s title character, she often frustrates readers with her refusal to accept help from those who truly care about her. And her capability of killing quickly and seemingly without remorse can be perplexing. However, Lisbeth’s tendency to settle problems with violence is necessary in Sweden’s seedy underworld. In this second novel of Larsson’s trilogy, the author reveals many of the reasons for Lisbeth’s aloof attitude and fierce independence—she has been victimized by virtually everyone who is supposed to protect her. Even Mikael Blomkvist, Lisbeth’s partner and lover from Larsson’s first novel, betrays her by continuing his affair of convenience with his boss when Lisbeth had believed that he loves her and her alone.
In The Girl Who Played With Fire, Lisbeth is a much more mature heroine. She no longer relies on punk hairstyles and piercings to intimidate others because she feels more comfortable with herself and knows that she is capable of handling herself in extremely dangerous situations. She also begins to realize that she cannot continue to neglect her friendships, such as her relationship with Mimmi, and still expect those friendships to continue or flourish.
Blomkvist, a renegade journalist, desires more than anything to reveal the truth to his audience and to right social injustices. While he struggles with committing to a relationship with any one woman, he is likable and easily makes others feel grateful for whatever time they get with him. He is dogged in his pursuit of the truth and willing to risk his life for his job. Although he has hurt Lisbeth, she realizes that he is still her ally and someone she can trust with her life (if not her heart). The novel ends with Blomkvist trying to save Lisbeth much as she saved his life in the first novel.
Niedermann’s character enters the novel early, but he is referred to only as “the blond giant” throughout most of the book. He does Zala’s dirty work and murders Bjurman, Svensson, and Johansson while unwittingly framing Lisbeth for the homicides. During the various physical encounters throughout the novel, Niedermann seems impervious to pain; he has a rare genetic condition that virtually anesthetizes him. Despite his inability to suffer physically, Niedermann possesses a high-pitched voice and an...
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