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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson

Chapters 9–11

Chapters 6–8

Chapters 12–14

Summary: Chapter 9

Martin Vanger, Harriet’s brother and Henrik’s great-nephew, comes over to introduce himself to Blomkvist. He seems friendly and invites Blomkvist over for dinner in the future. Despite his isolation in Hedeby, Blomkvist cannot escape from the news of his libel conviction and finds that he is the focus of a disparaging news article and generally negative sentiment. Resigned to his current situation, he interviews Henrik and learns about the history of anti-Semitism and the pursuit of racial purity in the racial family. During the discussion, Blomkvist realizes that although the family boasts immense financial and social success, they nevertheless seem deeply dysfunctional. Henrik acknowledges as much, and admits the strife that his marriage to a Jewish woman caused between him, his father, and his brother. In the meantime, Salander goes to meet Nils Bjurman. Due to her antisocial, violent, and sometimes promiscuous behavior as a child and teenager, she remains under a court-appointed guardianship. Bjurman, appointed as her new guardian after her first guardian, Holger Palmgren, suffers a stroke, announces that he will rectify the errors of her previous guardianship. Specifically, he reminds Salander that he controls her finances and that she must now see him for a weekly allowance.

Summary: Chapter 10

Blomkvist attends the promised dinner with Martin and Martin’s girlfriend, Eva. Martin, acting as the head of the family business, seems amused by the family’s foibles and problems. The next day, Blomkvist receives a visit from Cecilia Vanger, another one of Henrik’s nieces and the headmistress of a school in Hedeby. She expresses her curiosity and skepticism about his reason for being in Hedeby, but she treats him with lukewarm kindness. In contrast, Isabella Vanger, Martin and Harriet’s mother, responds to Blomkvist with open hostility. Convinced he will find no help in the Vanger family, Blomkvist instead goes to visit Superintendent Morell and learns that, the day of her death, Harriet attempted to speak with Henrik about an urgent matter. Morell believes the urgent matter might play a part in her disappearance and Blomkvist leaves to process the information. Eventually, after a phone call from Henrik, Berger stops giving Blomkvist the silent treatment and comes to visit him. As Blomkvist continues to investigate, Salander meets again with her guardian, who asks intrusive questions about her sex life, and assumes he will become a problem.

Summary: Chapter 11

Berger comes to visit Blomkvist in Hedeby and tells him that Millennium is in bad financial shape. Blomkvist then introduces her to Henrik, who invites them to dinner. At dinner, Henrik offers to back Millennium financially if Blomkvist comes back as the publisher, which leads Blomkvist to realize that Berger and Henrik have worked out the deal together over the past week. After Berger leaves, Blomkvist visits Cecilia and, after they exchange pleasantries, the two make love. Blomkvist returns to his research and finds that Harriet felt strong religious impulses. Additionally, he discovers five names and initials, as well as accompanying numbers that appear to be phone numbers, in Harriet’s datebook and resolves to find out what they might mean. Meanwhile, Salander finds herself without a proper computer after a car runs over her Macbook. In desperate need of a new one, she requests that Bjurman give her money from her account, and he forces her to perform oral sex on him in exchange for the check. Afterwards, he suggests that this is to be their new arrangement.

Analysis

The most shocking event in this section is Bjurman’s abuse of his power over Salander, and the event serves as an example of the novel’s theme of violence against women. Bjurman uses his economic power over Salander to hurt her. The money Bjurman dispenses to Salander is Salander’s money, but the fact that her guardianship prevents access to that money leaves her strikingly vulnerable and forces her to comply with even the most unreasonable demands in exchange for security and basic needs. In this case, Bjurman preys on that vulnerability and demands sexual pleasure in exchange for the dispensation of funds. As a legal guardian, Bjurman acts as the embodiment of state authority, and the fact that he can without consequence demand submission and complete obedience from his charge demonstrates both the alarming power invested in court guardians as well as they ways in which the system breaks down and crushes those it intends to protect.

In Chapter 10, the novel continues to illustrate, through the interactions between Berger and Henrik, the ways in which economic power begets control over others. In an effort to quiet Blomkvist’s fears about Millennium, Henrik uses his significant financial power to manipulate Berger and again secure Blomkvist’s ongoing presence in Hedeby. Though no violence marks this encounter, Henrik’s willingness to manipulate finances to achieve his desires parallels Bjurman’s actions towards Salander and again shows how money can be used to control others. Both men arrange circumstances to their benefit and manipulate others with the prospect of financial gain, and both men set themselves up as powerful authorities who demand obedience to fulfill their individual needs and desires. Henrik’s manipulations, of course, tend towards the benevolent in nature, and Berger, unlike Salander, does not resist the conditions of such financial manipulations because she believes them to be ultimately beneficial. Bjurman, on the other hand, uses his power over Salander at her expense.

In addition to these themes, these chapters of the novel continue to develop and introduce major conflicts that will motivate the action throughout the rest of the series: notably, Salander’s conflict with her guardian Bjurman, and more generally, with the guardianship itself; and the conflict between the members of the Vanger family, and between Blomkvist and the Vangers in particular. Though Bjurman’s particularly nasty personality and his cruelty, as well as the unconscionable demands he makes on Salander, make him an obvious antagonist, the friction between the two of them also symbolizes Salander’s greater discomfort with the concept of guardianship as a whole and foreshadows her desire to be rid of it entirely. Blomkvist’s conflict with the Vanger family, on the other hand, exemplified by the generally lukewarm reception to his presence in Hedeby, bears no immediate fruit and causes no devastatingly problematic consequences at the moment. However, the encounters promise trouble to come and a great deal of obstruction and difficulty as he looks into the matter of Harriet’s disappearance.

Perhaps most intriguingly, however, this segment of the novel indicates racism and the quest for racial purity as one of the main sources of conflict within the Vanger family. Henrik’s revelations about the profound anti-Semitism in his family and the fact that the sentiment grieves him serves both to overshadow the financial and professional success of the Vanger clan and, additionally, to indicate a wellspring of family corruption that makes Harriet’s murder by a member of the family seem plausible and even probable. The fact that Henrik shares this history in Chapter 9 again indicates his shrewdness, since the device serves both to vilify the Vanger clan and to draw Blomkvist deeper into the mystery that Henrik wants solved. For Blomkvist, however, the revelations about such a sordid past serve both to underscore the deep-rooted dysfunction of the Vanger clan and to indicate the presence of corruption beneath the polished appearance of the wealthy family. In particular, the fact that only Henrik wishes to share these matters speaks both to the depth of Henrik’s obsession with Harriet’s disappearance and the social price he will pay to have it resolved, as well as to the desire of the Vanger family to obscure their sordid history.

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