3. In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status.
This passage, following the guardianship critique in Chapter 12, further underscores the innate vulnerability of women in Swedish society and Salander’s belief that violence towards women is a socially acceptable act in her country. The disturbing philosophy aligns with Salander’s additional acknowledgement that the police will not think much, or at all, of her sexual assault and that the incident will not be prosecuted because such acts occur with such frequency that they seem ordinary. This view rings true later in the book when she later discovers, with Blomkvist, the many women that Martin kidnapped and killed. His careful studies of such women and his selection of them, as well as his seeming immunity from discovery, fulfills Salander’s belief that crimes against women largely go unnoticed and unpunished. The phenomenon both fuels Salander’s rage and inspires her to protect and depend on herself, as she feels outside sources will be unsympathetic to the plight of most women.
Additionally, these lines demonstrate Salander’s belief that only status, beauty, or wealth can help protect women against the violence they might otherwise suffer. Though women of all social classes suffer throughout the novel, women with financial means have at the least a method to escape their abusers, while beautiful or socially respectable women have a measure of power to wield against such abuses. In this case, Berger exemplifies the woman that Salander can never be. Wealthy, beautiful, and well-connected, Berger wields a great deal of influence and holds a great deal of agency over her life. The worst abuse she endures comes in the form of verbal degradation from the press. Unfortunately for women who have no close family or friends and very little in the way of financial protection, however, violence seems inevitable. Martin, we learn, chose his victims based on whether they would be missed. Depending on their social status, some women are essentially deemed unimportant—“legal prey” as the quote puts it.