Monday, November 7, 2011

Ellie Smith and Lisbeth Salander -- "daddy's girls" revisited

A while ago I had read The Daughters of Cain by Colin Dexter. It was after seeing an Inspector Morse Mystery on television. I was in India at that time. There is a character in there named Kay Eleanor Brooks or Ellie Smith, as she calls herself later. A girl who fights back, in ways that maybe an outsider wouldn't understand, but which are perfectly plausible. A wild, seemingly antisocial, but intelligent and purposeful person is our Ellie. And there is that unrealized/unrealizable forever kind of sexual and emotional tension between the moody, irascible, almost antisocial Morse  an unlikely hero, and this at the same time awkward and confident girl with the double nose rings, and colorful hair. Something enduring, that we only see in books, for in real life, the tension becomes either a rope to strangle the relationship, or a nuisance that we are eager to be rid of. Anyway, needless to say I identified with both the characters. I am sure they are Aquarians, with a touch of Virgo.

Years later, another fascinating girl comes along, another fighter/survivor. And this time around, the whole world looks up. (The world had got smaller in the intervening years). Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo aka Lisbeth Salander. Again I am caught up by this character. The same awkward but sure character. Back then I had wished to know more of Ellie, wanted her to succeed, and that wish came true with Lisbeth. I have a vague memory of Ellie appearing in  another novel, and some tragedy, but I may be wrong.

By now I am way older. But that does not affect the identification process. I couldn't help thinking that had I grown up in a Western country, this could have been one of the persons I would have become. (could be wishful thinking) And Ellie came back to my mind. Both girls  are smartly self sufficient but pathetically vulnerable. Both are attracted to older men  in the stories. I liked both the unlikeable heroes, but I prefer Morse, maybe. Because he is that annoying sort of  romantic who is in love with the idea of being in love, which creates its own set of problems. He is the passive wait-specialist, eternal student type who pushes away any sort of culmination, consummation, ending. It is the waiting that thrills him, again, bringing to mind the Aquarian personality. This is the type that even picks a fight for no reason so that that eternal waiting is not changed, and just the yearning is left. yikes! On the other hand, Blomquist, the other type of romantic, is promiscuous. He seems to have no trouble with beginnings and endings.  When it comes to women, one -- Morse, as the true classicist -- seems to put them on a pedestal, and the other seems to just fall into their beds rather too easily. And going with that, whereas Ellie is voluptuous, Lisbeth is waif-like, almost androgynous, as Aquarians usually are said to be! It is the same classicism that juxtaposes the goddess and the fallen woman. But the Swedish heroine/anti-hero cannot be classified as "fallen", nor does she get punished for her amorality, which makes me as a reader and a woman, happy. And my preference for the hero could be defined by fact that  at this point, I  am older and Morse is the character that is older than me now!

Ellie and Lisbeth could be sisters separated by years. They have traumatic experiences with their real father or father figures. Whatever it was, there is a lack of a good father figure in their lives. I  do not want to feed that assumption of a sexual attachment between fathers and daughters, (or mothers and sons, for that matter) as that is a fantasy of perverted/sick minds, or people trying to look sophisticated and highbrow, or unique and different. ( I know I sound dogmatic or naive or stupid when I say that. I am talking about good fathers, not pedophiles.  Normal humans have evolved beyond incest, I believe and hope). Needless to say, it doesn't apply to regular, normal father-daughter relationship. But you could associate it with that longing for kindness,  security and protection. And usually people who are older and who have your welfare at heart tend to provide that more. That person could be an older brother or a father. Like I said before, both the girls look up to older men, the "heroes".

While both possess that raw, unpolished intellect, Lisbeth seems to be an advanced version of Ellie. An Ellie in a digitalized world. A player on a global level,  in the Aquarian Age. A self-taught computer whiz who knows how to use her exploiters to win the war between good and evil -- what she sees as good or evil. One who is more than biology, who uses more than biology to survive, and falls for another flawed hero. Lisbeth is allowed to think like a man, like a girl more influenced by her dad, if she had one around, and if he did not mind her being a tomboy inside and out -- another social expectation matter. (I was no tomboy, but we did not have much choice back then, back home. I wonder -- what if. But I know I wanted to be more like my dad, rather than mom. And on the other end of the spectrum, when we have had the perfect dad, we do look for him, if he is gone forever, just to have him as dad). The difference between the two may be the difference in the outlook of their makers and their heroes. While Dexter seems to be a classicist like Morse, in his handling of his characters, Larsson is more modern, not beyond transcending gender stereotypes, not altogether, but to a greater extent. 

PS : I wish they'd asked Lady Gaga to be the girl with the dragon tattoo. :)