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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson

Chapters 18–20

Chapters 15-17

Chapters 21-23

Summary: Chapter 18

Salander wakes up after a night of drinking and sex to find a cheerful Blomkvist at her front door. He barges in, admitting that he looked up her address and saying he knows she hacked into his computer. He figured it out because in her report on him she included information he had written but not yet published. He does not seem upset about it, however. Confused, Salander finds his demeanor disarming and permits his presence long enough for him to explain that he wants to offer her a job. She verifies his story with Armansky, and afterward Blomkvist shares the copious details of the Vanger affair. Salander agrees to take the job and Blomkvist leaves, stopping by Millennium before he returns to Hedeby. There, he discovers that Berger and others members of the staff suspect that Dahlmann might be a mole. In particular, they believe Dahlmann might be responsible for the leak of Millennium’s information to Wennerström. After this news, Blomkvist returns to Hedeby to find that someone searched through his belongings in his absence.

Summary: Chapter 19

Blomkvist visits Henrik in the hospital and promises to continue his investigation into Harriet’s death. There, he’s confronted by Birger, Cecilia’s brother, who wants Blomkvist to disclose everything he knows. Frode warns Blomkvist that the family members grow angrier by the day about his presence. Martin comes by to offer a similar warning and also to acknowledge that he will replace Henrik on Millennium’s board until Henrik recovers. As Blomkvist deals with the various members of the Vanger family, Salander researches the names and Bible verses found in Harriet’s date book. She begins to make connections between the brutal murders of two separate women in 1949 and 1960 and another seemingly unrelated murder, and she wonders if they might relate to Harriet’s disappearance in 1966. While she continues her research, Blomkvist travels to Norsjö and attempts to find the photographer who has the additional pictures of the Children’s Day Parade. He finally locates the woman and she gladly gives him her photographs, which reveal an unidentifiable figure standing behind a clown.

Summary: Chapter 20

The next day, Blomkvist discusses his worries about the future of Millennium with Frode. Frode reassures him that Martin will help despite the stress he endures as acting Vanger CEO. Satisfied, Blomkvist informs Martin that he will not return to Millennium until he’s finished with the Vanger affair. Seemingly disappointed, Martin notes that Blomkvist seems torn between his loyalties to Henrik and his loyalties to the magazine, but nevertheless accepts his answer. After Blomkvist goes on a jog, Frode arrives with the unwelcome news that Isabella intends to stir up sentiments against him in hopes that he will leave Hedeby. Fortunately, after Frode leaves, Salander arrives with the news that the list of names and Bible verses in Harriet’s date book does indeed correspond to a series of grisly murders. From this information, Salander suspects that Harriet might possess some knowledge of the connection between the killings. Blomkvist thanks her for the information and tells her that her job is complete, but Salander expresses her desire to keep working on the case. Grateful for the help, Blomkvist agrees to hire her as a researcher.

Analysis

Blomkvist and Salander finally meet in this section, and as their relationship develops, it offers a strong contrast to the abusive dynamics that characterize the relationships between women and men in the rest of the novel. After their initial wary meeting and Salander’s agreeing to take the job, the two fall into an immediate rapport with each other based on mutual trust and respect. Because Blomkvist trusts Salander with the details of the case and seems to notice, but not reject, her quirks, she in turn works hard to contribute to his research and accepts his presence in spite of her reserve. Most notably, despite his many lovers, Blomkvist does not treat Salander as a sexual object. His respect for her body and her identity, and Salander’s belief in Blomkvist’s credibility and his integrity, allows them to work together in a symbiotic relationship that produces greater results and more breaks in the case than either could produce individually. In particular, the connections they make between the names and numbers in Harriet’s date book, the anti-Semitism in the Vanger family, and the grisly serial killings exemplify their synchronicity.

The growth of Blomkvist’s and Salander’s relationship, however, occurs as the tone of the novel darkens and several incidents foreshadow imminent conflict and a resolution to the mystery. The veiled threats from members of the Vanger clan, including Isabella, Birger, and even Martin, sharpen the sense of urgency and display the tension that roils beneath the surface as it becomes apparent that Blomkvist is unwelcome. Henrik’s absence contributes to the tension in this section of the novel, since, though Frode reiterates his support of Blomkvist, Henrik remains Blomkvist’s sole protective force against the combined ire of the Vanger family. Martin, too, serves to complicate matters and creates a additional conflict when he attempts to force Blomkvist to choose between his employment on the island and his job at Millennium by insisting that Millennium requires Blomkvist’s presence and that Blomkvist’s attempts to solve the mystery are a waste of time. In particular, Martin’s veiled hints to Blomkvist that he leave and go back to the magazine indicate that even Blomkvist’s apparent allies might not be trustworthy.

Finally, the connections between the brutal murders of women, the rampant anti-Semitism in the Vanger family, and Harriet’s sudden disappearance indicate that theme of violence against women is central to the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance and the serial killings she possibly discovered as a child. The brutal murders of women, which seem to imitate the grotesque punishments in the Bible verses, link the killings to a hatred of women, particularly Jewish women, and a perception of them as worthless, filthy beings. Additionally, that perception of women dovetails with the history of domestic abuse, violence, and anti-Semitism in the Vanger family. Salander particularly seems to pick up on this connection. Familiar with systematic abuse and violence, Salander does not find the abhorrent nature of such killings to be at all unnatural in the current state of Swedish society. They serve as just one more example, albeit a horribly extreme one, of the violence against women committed in Sweden every day by misogynists like Bjurman. The murders, in other words, represent the worst expression of hatred of women in Sweden.

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