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Millennium (Series) | Themes



The strongest theme running through the series is the abuse and mistreatment of women. The original Swedish title of Book 1 translates to Men Who Hate Women, and a good number of male characters in the series truly do hate women. Martin and Gottfried Vanger are serial killers who target Jewish women. Both also rape and torment Harriet Vanger. Nils Bjurman, a rapist, abuses his power as Lisbeth Salander's legal guardian. Alexander Zalachenko runs a human trafficking ring, and other male characters, including Gunnar Björck, take part in it. Erika Berger is the victim of an angry male stalker.

The women aren't only victims to violent sexism, they also experience sexism in the form of discrimination at the workplace: Sonja Modig, for example, is treated differently than her male counterparts in the police force, and higher-ups at SMP discount Berger's ideas simply because she's a woman. By returning to the theme again and again in the series, and presenting it in various forms, Stieg Larsson depicts misogyny as a pervasive problem in Swedish culture that affects women regardless of their background, education, or appearance.

Some biographers claim Larsson wrote the character of Lisbeth Salander to assuage personal guilt. At age 15, Larsson witnessed a group of friends gang-rape a young woman. He neither spoke up nor attempted to stop the attack, and his guilt haunted him for the rest of his life. The Millennium trilogy considers how sexual abuse affects survivors like Salander and shows many ways the patriarchy degrades and mistreats women. Salander becomes a feminist heroine because she chooses not to remain a victim; instead, she takes control and exacts revenge on the systems and individuals responsible for harming women. Feminist critics of the Millennium trilogy claim Larsson's vivid descriptions of abuse border on voyeurism and therefore contribute to the objectification of women; they also object to Salander's decision to get breast implants in Book 2. But these complaints have done little to alter the popular perception of Salander as a feminist hero.


As in any good thriller, the Millennium trilogy's characters are motivated by their desire to seek revenge for wrongs in their lives. In Book 1 Henrik Vanger explains why he hired Blomkvist to research Harriet Vanger's disappearance: "My motive is the simplest imaginable: revenge." Salander spends the entire series fighting the people and systems that oppressed her. Because she distrusts government systems, including the police, she relies on her skills and strengths to exact revenge. After Bjurman rapes her in Book 1, she tattoos a gruesome message across his chest—an ingenious move that punishes him for his crime and ensure her financial freedom. This prompts Bjurman to seek revenge against Salander by partnering with Zalachenko, her father. Zalachenko wants revenge against Salander for burning him in the fire, which she did to avenge his abuse of her mother. This complicated web of revenge lies at the heart of the novels' plots.


All of the series' characters, villains and heroes alike, behave according to their own moral code or system of rules. The Vanger serial killers, father and son, feel compelled to murder Jewish women because they believe they are purifying society and following God's orders. Members of Säpo (the real-life secret police), charged with Zalachenko's protection, cover up his crimes rather than reveal his identity because they believe they are protecting national security. Even Dr. Peter Teleborian believes locking up Salander serves a greater good; the Section fears that a free Salander might share stories about her father, Zalachenko, which would endanger national security.

Salander and other heroic characters in theMillenniumtrilogy recognize flaws in the justice system and break the law to track down and punish criminals. Police officers such as Sonja Modig and Jan Bublanksi, as well as Dr. Anders Jonasson, break oaths of duty—risking their jobs in the process—because they believe Salander is innocent of the charges against her. Characters rarely question their decisions because they strongly believe in protecting the greater good, whatever the cost. The only exception is when Blomkvist decides not to publish the true story of what happened to Harriet Vanger. Although he prides himself on journalist integrity and the value of the truth, he decides to cover up the serial killings to protect Harriet's privacy.

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Questions for Themes

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Answer one of the following questions: Throughout the novel, the reader is told that Don Quixote is mad, driven by his irrational belief that he is living out the romances of chivalry that he has read
Epic heroes usually confront enemies with supernatural powers - why is Grendel such a formidable source? Via Beowulf.
Choose one of the readings from chapters 2-6 and summarize, explain, and evaluate the main points of the reading in a minimum of 3 paragraphs. Do not simply cut and paste from the reading, but summari
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