How does social criticism work in the Scandinavian crime fiction novels?
Social criticism refers to a situation whereby malicious conditions are revisited with consideration on how they have been entrenched in social structures. Social criticism is geared towards getting practical solutions by applying certain measures to reform the society. Social criticism has permeated the academic arena and specifically in literature. Fictional literature has been used widely to portray social voices in societies. The Scandinavian fiction has been used largely in the crime novel to portray social criticism (Stieg, 16).
It is agreeable that in the eyes of many, when Scandinavian crime fiction is mentioned, the novels like “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” and “Silence of the Grave” come into play. The fictional novels have been rated, and their literature has a widespread acknowledgement. The novel “The Girl with the dragon Tattoo” takes a woman to be the leading character whereby all the events in the novel are centered on her. The novel opens with an introduction of Mikael Blomkivist who has lost a defamation case under doubtful circumstances. Mikael is set to start investigations of his niece who disappeared forty years ago. The story unfolds, and Henrik, who has hired Blomkvist to carry out the investigation, is convinced that the disappearance of Harriet was engineered by family members. The investigations take a different turn when Blomkvist meets Lisbeth who proves to have a good memory, bad temper and intimacy issues. The two team up to unfold the mystery behind Harriet’s disappearance (Stieg, 7).
As the investigations progress, it is discovered that Harriet’s death forms part of a series of murders that took place in 1950s and 1960s. The novel depicts men as violent within the Swedish society. This is evidenced by the fact that, with the exception of Blomkvist, every man in the novel is violent. In the process of the investigation, Blomkvist’s relationship with the daughter and a co-worker deteriorates considerably (Stieg, 14).
The novel presents a morally questionable cycle where a rape revenge fantasy is presented. The empowered woman in the novel stops at nothing except having a revenge for the rape committed against her. The nature of the violence that she goes through is depicting a crime dominated society. The novel builds a society based on violence against violence. The society is not represented as depending on the due process of justice. The drive towards reactionary violence stems from lack of trust in the established institutions. The issue of revenge being a better option in the Swedish society is evident when, at the end of the novel, Blomkvists makes efforts to bring down the executive who worn the lawsuit mentioned at the beginning of the novel (Stieg, 24).
The violence on Lisbeth in the novel portrays the society as working against a woman since rape is the norm of the day. Lisbeth becomes a hacker and takes revenge on her abusers by letting out all the dirty secrets about the wealthy. Her revenge is not confined to what has been done against her, but she takes revenge on behalf of women. The novel presents a situation whereby women are viewed as sex objects. Therefore, raping cannot be ruled out from such a society. A reader is shocked by the treatment that Swedish men give to their women. In addition, the book presents other crimes such as murders and suicide. The novel has a slight criticism on the Swedish welfare state. Bureaucracy is evidenced by the police investigations and the role of such bureaucracies in showing how investigations are obstructed. The tradition of employing the use of technicalities to deny people justice is what Lisbeth and Mikael are aiming to eliminate. A different way of carrying out investigation based on learning and knowing that seems immune to obstruction is introduced by Lisbeth. This method of investigation mainly centers on investigation through hacking that cannot be obstructed (Stieg, 19).
The novel introduces the reader to the vengeance and violence in the Scandinavian cultural setting. The novel portrays a point whereby the Swedish society is seen not ready to depart from the Norse legal system that advocated for personal revenge. The parallelism between the ancient justice system and the modern legal system is clearly depicted in the novel when Lisbeth decides to take revenge. The writer tries to peg that on the failure of institutions such as the police to offer neutral investigations. He also considers the weaknesses of the justice system to cause alarming desire to take personal revenge. The renewed nationalism and contemporary violence are evident in Sweden at a time when justice is left in the hands of individuals. In the culture of violence, the writer strives to differentiate between men and female violence. The novelist shows that women are greatly affected by the violence (Stieg, 22).
The cultural setting shows that many men are violent, and they consider women to be a way of relieving such quest. The rape scene shows the state of crime in the Swedish society. The writer further paints justice as influenced and not free to everyone. Though the story opens as pro-feminist, many believe that the writer departs from that when he portrays Lisbeth as subordinate to men. The complexity of her character and skills in her hacking, which are mainly meant to achieve revenge, leaves many unanswered question on the pain the women in the society and the determination to take revenge. The writer builds on the character of the woman as strong in taking the revenge. This shows celebration rather than sympathy in revenge. The writer creates a strong female character through taking revenge. A reader can possibly avoid the temptation of celebrating Lisbeth’s actions when she is taking revenge. At the end of the novel, the reader wonders whether the writer wanted to portray revenge as necessary or was trying to show how it has consumed the community. In other words, the writer seems to agree with the notion that revenge is unavoidable in Swedish society, and only a strong woman takes revenge. In the society’s context, the writer used the stereotypical male impulse to build the character of Lisbeth (Stieg, 32).
In the novel, “Silence of the grave”, the author applies the crime epic story telling with a unique sociological complexity. The author opens the story with a thrilling narration of discovery of a skeleton on the estate located at the outskirts of Reykjavik. The excavation of the place leads to a discovery of red bushes surrounding the place. Therefore, the reader is introduced to a twist of suspense in making a guess on who may have planted the bushes on the hillside. The archeologists are left to undertake their work, but the detective orders the place to be investigated. The investigation on the area around the hillside points to the small farms where there was a military base. This base was manned by the British army at the time of World War II. The detective makes interviews on the residents of the district, and the history becomes clear to him (Stieg, 42).
The place is surrounded by mysterious stories. The shocking part of the author is employing thrill in his work evidenced when he invites a voice from the grave to have a conversation. The story is sad, and it is narrated by an abused wife who lived in the hill before. The narration takes a portrayal of the society as being violent to women and purely patriarchal. The connection between the story and the buried skeleton is left in the hands of the reader. The writer does not make the skeleton voice mean that the woman and children were killed by the sadistic laborer who worked on the hillside. However, evidence points to the notion that the two are related. The use of the parallel narrative leaves many questions that the reader gets answers as the story continues. The writer unveils the history and makes and exposes the history of Swedish community that has long reached the new age. The attachment of the society to the said ancestry has gradually affected today’s Swedish, living styles (Arnaldur, 12).
The narration shows a situation whereby the society’s social values have completely broken down. The discovery of the skeleton was accompanied by a parallel voice of an abused woman and neglected children. The author portrays the society as being very ignorant of the weak. According to Elrendur’s work, there are cases of spousal abandonment and neglected children. There is despair that surrounds the society, which does not seem to care. The detective experiences cases of neglect in his day to day duties. He encounters the worst experiences of a society that has lost touch with the observance of moral and social obligations. The opening of the book is in line with the conclusion whereby the detective becomes very compassionate after meeting gloomy men in his line of duty. While the detective is taking an interest in investigating the presence of the bones, he is faced with a strange encounter that makes him leave immediately. His daughter is taken to hospital. It is discovered that she has comatose and is pregnant. He is instructed by the doctor to talk to her (Arnaldur, 13).
The novel “The Girl with A tattoo and Silence Of The grave and Blind Goddess” has been viewed like a mirror hence helping readers to have a glimpse of the Scandinavian society. The other novels carried themes of violence, revenge and crime. It has established that the vengeance justice is still rooted in the living styles of the Swedish people. In the novel, a woman is treated like a sex object and violence is more pronounced amongst men than it is in women. The second novel centers on neglect and abuse of spouse. It becomes hard for a situation to go unnoticed since the community’s social values are greatly ignored. The detective investigating the human bones experiences similar social breakdown in his family. This makes it easy to get a real picture of the entire society (Holt & Reading, 23).
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