Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.


In The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the geography of Hedeby serves repeatedly to define Blomkvist’s relationship to the rest of the Vanger family and also to heighten the sense of isolation and alienation within the text. In particular, the closed-off location of the island serves to ensconce the Vanger family away from society, to preserve history, and to isolate Blomkvist from his old life and profession. Conversely, the urban bustle of Stockholm signals a shift in the novel’s tone and almost always indicates Blomkvist’s reconnection to his profession and to his old life.


Throughout the novel, the seasons often reflect Blomkvist’s mood and, more importantly, signify major shifts in tone and plot. The bleak cold winter when Blomkvist arrives in Hedeby symbolizes both his barren career and signifies the bleakness of his life, in which his personal relationships and his future prospects seem stark and inhospitable. Additionally, the return of spring, which heralds Blomkvist’s return from prison, echoes the new promise of Blomkvist’s future as well as his progress on the case.


The brutal violence in the novel, including Bjurman’s sexual assaults of Salander and Martin Vanger’s remorseless serial killings, exists as the physical manifestation of the hatred of women that runs through the novel. Nearly all the abuse in the novel, with the exception of Martin’s attack on Blomkvist, occurs against women. The brutal nature of that violence as well as the mutilation of flesh that accompanies it serves as the real-world evidence of the misogyny that exists both within the Vanger clan and in Swedish society at-large.