Reputation and Respect

People judge others. It is a fact that is prevalent in today’s society and is a theme that is also present in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In this novel, judgment is based off of social status and reputation. Without a good social status, a person’s credibility is ruined.

In the opening chapters of the book, the reader learns of two main characters in the book. One is Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist who is facing media pressure after being accused of libel against a prominent financier, Hans-Erik Wennerström. Because of this, Blomkvist’s career and reputation are plummeting quickly. His social status and reputation are ruined and he fears that he will never be able to write again. The second main character, Lisbeth Salander, is in a similar situation. She too has virtually no social standing, and therefore no credibility, because she is a ward of the state. She is called insane and is under strict guardianship enforced by the government. Both Lisbeth and Mikael lack the credibility they need to successfully continue with their lives because they have been shunned by society in one way or another.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the reader is then introduced to the very prominent Vanger family. Henrik is the eldest of the family and established the corporation that generates wealth for the family. However, each member benefits from the family name. It gives them power, prestige, and a social standing that they may not have had otherwise.  Their public credibility is quite large even though we later learn that the corporation is beginning to fail.

However, even though The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems to correlate good credibility with a well-known social status, it really just emphasizes that reputations are not always proven true. For example, as the novel progresses we learn of more and more dark secrets in the Vanger family: the death and disappearance of Harriet, the faulty relationships between different members in the family, and most importantly, Martin’s sadistic and murderous behavior. As the residing CEO of Vanger Corporations, Martin’s reputation and social standing are pristine and he is quite powerful in the business world. Clearly, his reputation was not accurate towards who he was and his behavior as a person.

Mikael is also a victim of judgment due to reputation. He did not defend himself against his story about Wennerström and is seen to be a liar with no cause except to create excitement in the business world. However, he too proves his reputation wrong, but instead of losing social status like Martin, he ends up gaining it. His newest publication on the Wennerstöm affair ignites the financial world like wildfire, restores his reputation and the credibility of the Millennium.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is structured so that the reader makes judgements based off of a given character’s social status. It is not until later in the novel where truth is finally revealed. This is similar to judging a person and than realizing their true colors only after knowing and speaking to them for some time. Clearly, although The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems to relate credibility to social status, it’s really emphasizing the age-old cliché of “don’t judge a book by its cover”.



Violence as a source of power

Violence is a recurring event throughout The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This is whether it has to do with Blomkivist being kidnapped or some type of sexual torture as retaliation. The first violent act shown sexually is the scene where Advokat Bjurman rapes Salander. In this scene she enters the room feeling like she knows something is bound to happen but she does not feel that it will enter these extremes. As she enters the room she feels as if she has the power but is strongly mistaken when she realizes the consequences of entering alone. Bjurman leaves Salandar with scars that she can never recover from both physically as well as emotionally. He feels a sense of power over her in this state, until she comes up with a plan. In this plan she uses a weapon, a tazer, to gain control of the situation, leaving marks on his body. Then Salander continues to carve into his body using a needle. Throughout this book, violence is used as a source of power. It gives each of these characters a sense of leadership and it is a constant battle of who is in charge.


Another situation where violence is used as a control of power is during the series of murders committed by Martin Vanger. During these murders, Martin tortures and kills his victims in order to gain a sense of pleasure. He picks his victims based off who he thinks will not be recognized as missing, the victims of society. He feels control of his victims and even says he “feels like god” by having their life in his hands. He gets to control if they live or die and he craves this power over society. Martin is the definition of a sadist. He is the head of a company yet continuously is in desperate need of power.


The Vanger family also shows a craving for control by the fact of selling distributions of the company and wanting to gain the biggest portion. When Henrick Vanger retires he no longer focuses on his company that gave him so much power but focuses on the disappearance of Harriet. This is the first time that anyone in the Vanger family is willing to give up power for someone else in the family. He then passes his share of the family wealth down to Martin to take over.


Cecilla’s husband abuses her, showing that in this book, men are considered superior to women. Also men are the main abusers and women are not treated with respect. Blomkvist throughout the book can choose his women at his call. When meeting Cecilla, she initiates the relationship and starts off in power, but soon falls for him letting down her wall that was up. This gives Blomkvist power over her, which she does not like because of her past abuses. This puts her at a sense of vulnerability and unstableness.


The role of violence and power in this book are interchangeable. While one person has all of the power, they can lose it at the blink of the eye. Not only has violence become a common trend in the book, but it shows an example of how there is no peace in their society. Everyone is against each other rather than trusting and working together. The idea of power consumes all of the characters.

The War of the Tug

The War of the Tug

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo appears to be the usual detective novel with several characters working towards the ultimate goal of justice, but is revealed to truly be a power struggle between the main characters for some other unrelated purpose. With the Vanger Corporation under control of a secretly evil man, a magazine under fire due to a journalist’s mistake, and a young delinquent hacker, there are plenty of opportunities to take charge and get something out of such a baffling situation, however, each character at some point becomes an obstacle to success.

For Martin Vanger, the new CEO of Vanger Corporations, power is not only key but a sick addiction (dun, dun, dunnn). Behind the scenes, Martin has followed in his father’s footsteps, kidnapping, raping, and murdering unsuspecting victims all while attempting to form the company in his vision as well as Blomkvist’s magazine, Millenium. With Mikael’s business connection with the Vanger Corp., Martin sees an opportunity to use this leverage to his advantage. As Mikael makes further progress into the case, Martin has no choice but to dissuade him to continue his search for the truth through the magazine and its need for Mikael.

Mikael Blomkvist had no desire to take Henrik Vanger’s offer of the Harriet case, all until proof of Wennerstrom’s corruption was on the table. As a guilty journalist of libel, Mikael had no choice but to hide, however he takes the initiative to gain information that could clear his name along with obtaining a nice chunk of change. During his investigation, Mikael is approached time after time from fellow employees and personal friends about dropping such a ridiculous job. Yet, Mikael persist and takes control of his own fate, which in turn could save his magazine.

As a young woman, deemed mentally unstable by the government, Lisbeth Salander relies on no one to get what she wants. After being hired by the unexpected Mikael Blomkvist, she embarks on a personal mission of curiosity and information. After being told that her original assignment was complete, Lisbeth was overwhelmed with the urge to continue the job, so much so that she would accept no pay. Along with this, she is able to stroll into Blomkvist’s room and casually inform him of the desire for sex. Using her skill and sexuality, Salander stays on the job on her own accord.

From different perspectives, comes different goals, but all come from the desire to control their own lives or others. On a small secluded island, there is more than enough personal interest to go around.

More than Ink

One may never understand the reason Stieg Larsson, decided to include the tattoo part to the title of the book. Whats the significance of a tattoo? Whats so important about it? Ink embedded in someones skin normally wouldn’t come to any questioning to a person unless it was a strange and a not normal tattoo of course. The ones who usually get tattoos usually get them because 1. they have been waiting years to get them and now are finally legal too ( young teenagers) 2. they want to be cool, or think its a cool idea or another reason which is more common, 3. a purpose or a certain reason to get one. Tattoos through the book are not brought up very much and this is where a reader could miss the importance of a simple tattoo in this book.

Although a tattoo can come in different sizes, the importance of tattoos in this book cant be adjusted because it is just so big. If one were to focus on Lisbeth and her journey throughout the book, they would focus on the more important things rather than a tattoo initially. A tattoo is just a personal statement so another person wouldn’t really care about it because its not on them or it doesn’t have to do with them. Lisbeth and her tattoos are probably the most over looked in the book, even though the title has the word tattoo in it. In the book, what people may not recognize is that the tattoos indicate both non conformity and a persons assertion of power over the body. Tattoos indicate both nonconformity and the individual’s assertion of power over the body

Lisbeth is important to close read because here tattoos mark her immediately as an unorthodox figure and always draw the attention of others. While in contrast they mark her as a nonconformist as well. They addition to drawing the attention of others, they indicate her control over her own body and her fierce self-possession. A part of the book which shows the importance of the tattoo is after she gets raped by Bjurman. After she is raped she immediately goes and gets a slim band around her ankle. This act functions as an assertion of her control over her own body. In another scene, Bjurman gets a tattoo from Lisbeth. The tattoo that she gives Bjurman indicated her control over this time, his body. It signifies her newfound power over him this time, “ If you ever touch me again I will kill you. And that’s a promise…“ You’re going to get a present from me so you’ll always remember our agreement”.(Page 209)  This is an important quote because it is right before she starts to embed “ I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST” above his gentiles. Consequently, Bjurman too becomes marked as a social outsider, since the tattoo and the nature of the words essentially cut him off from social interactions and reminds him consistently of Lisbeth’s power over him.

A small but yet extremely important detail to the book and to Lisbeth’s role throughout the story, it symbolizes both corruption and self empowerment. Due to events that Lisbeth goes through, she decides to get tattoos to signify the pain and the newly self empowerment she gains from them.

Who’s in Control?

Control is one of the most essential and obvious elements of the plot in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Although it appears that the characters are working together to solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger’s disappearance, each person involved is looking for something centered around the case that will benefit them as an individual.

Henrik Vanger, after retiring from being the head of the Vanger Corporation, put his remaining efforts into the mystery of his niece’s disappearance. By first being in charge of the family corporation and then heading the search for Harriet, Henrik Vanger has always been in control of his own life and decisions. When he hires Blomkvist, it is because Vanger recognizes that he needs assistance with the case due to the fact that a new lead had not been uncovered in a few years. Even though he makes the decision to enlist in help, Vanger is still in charge because he is the one who makes the final decision on who is hired and who he trusts. But, when Henrik gets sick and ends up in the hospital, he does lose his control of the situation. He cannot work on the case, cannot speak to Blomkvist, cannot supervise the work that was his for years. Vanger’s interest in the case is the purest and he is merely looking for the answer to his question so he can finally have the peace of mind he lost so many years ago.

Mikael Blomkvist has also always been in control: his job, his affairs, his daily routine, etc. After he is sued for libel, Blomkvist loses one section of aspects he can control because he feels he cannot continue working for Millennium. When Vanger offers him the position to write up the family history and attempt to solve a murder while doing so, Blomkvist takes the position. Yet, Blomkvist did not take the position to be helpful or because he believed he could honestly uncover the murderer, but rather because he wanted to leave town temporarily to avoid bad press along with everything else related to the lawsuit and the job provided him with another place to reside. Additionally, the job involved being paid a large sum of money, which he would not be making while refusing to write for Millennium.

When Salander joins the team of men working on the case, it is her decision to do so. She  initially lost control when Mikael burst into her apartment to discuss her methods of gathering information, but regained control when she decided to work for Mikael and Vanger. When she had finished the piece of research she had been hired to do, she made the choice to continue working on the case because it intrigued her. Simultaneously, it is revealed that Blomkvist intrigues her when she barges into his bedroom and offers to sleep with him. Salander’s character does not like to be taken control of and will, whenever possible, only place herself in positions where she is the one in control. Salander’s reason for taking the case was firstly because it intrigued her and she would be paid for it, but secondly because she took an interest in Blomkvist when she studied him for Frode.

Martin Vanger, although not immediately involved in the case, displays his need for dominance multiple times throughout the book. Along with being the CEO of Vanger Corporation, Martin takes on a position on the Millennium board, affording him power in both businesses, and even through physical violence. Martin rifled through Blomkvist’s cabin, chased him with a rifle, left a destroyed cat on the doorstep, and chained Blomkvist inside the torture chamber he frequently uses to torture women he deems uncared about by society. Even when he is being pursued by Salander in his car, Martin controls the way he dies by driving headfirst into an oncoming car. Martin Vanger’s entire life was centered around being the man in control and exerting that control over as many subjects as possible.

Within The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, each character is constantly pursuing dominance, turning the initial belief in working together in search of an answer into a competition to see who can secure the most control.

Life Lemons to Detective Lemonade

Although Mars and Jeffries are both capable observers and detectives, they are both hindered by disabilities; for Mars, her social isolation and unlucky position as the daughter of a publicly shamed shamed ex-police chief act as hinderances in her pursuit of truth (namely her pursuit for the case of her missing mother the death of her best friend).  Jeffries has the obvious physical obstacle of his broken leg.  The two protagonists, however, are not entirely hindered and their supposed weaknesses are, in fact, advantages that allow them to better fulfill their duties as observers and detectives.

Jeffries broke his leg during a photography job at a racetrack and, because of his injury, he is required to wear a waist-down cast extending down his left leg.  This physical representation of Jeffries’ immobility not only causes him to be incapable of leaving his perpetual position next to his rear window, it causes him to form an addiction to observing the goings-on of his neighbors.  This addiction causes the serving of justice to a deserving criminal and the reignition of his passion towards Lisa, his girlfriend.  He is ultimately better off due, transitively, to his broken leg.

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Mars is seen as an outsider due to her fall-from-grace from the top of the social hierarchy.  Not only is she an social leper, she is an outcast in her own city due to her involuntary position as the daughter of the disgraced ex-police chief.  Her identity as an outcast allows her to act as a third party observer to the goings-on of the town, giving Mars an advantage and allowing her to be a better detective.  This behavior manifests itself when Mars cuts Willis down from the flag pole, completely disregarding social restrictions about interacting with the publicly humiliated teen. That, coupled with her ability to trust no one due to her belittling at the hand of her father’s replacement for her unsolved rape causes her to become a more cold hearted detective, concerned only with her pursuit of justice.  The use of her father’s loyal followers to accomplish tasks is another added windfall of her relation to the ex-police chief, such as the fire chief’s cooperation in Mars’ VHS replacement operation.


Not only are Jeffries and Mars’ detective abilities improved by their disadvantages, the products of their past that supposedly act as obstacles actually place the two in better positions to accomplish solid detective work.

The Female Detective

When one thinks of a regular teenage girl, things like begging her parents for a cell phone or shopping at the mall with their friends might come to mind. But what is normal? Is it what everyone else is doing that makes it “normal” or is it because it is socially accepted at a geographical location that makes the conventions “ok”? Whatever the case might be, Veronica Mars, the title character of the series, is anything but normal. Instead, her involvement in Lilly Kane’s murder and her unresolved rape case are reactants that helped shape the detective that she is now.


In the one of the flashbacks that were show in the pilot, we know that Mr. Mars is not who he use to be after he has publically humiliated himself by arresting the wrong person for the murder of Veronica’s best friend, Lilly Kane. One should take a moment think of the irony in the aftermath of this event. The technology developed by Jake Kane, the CEO of Kane Corporation, that enabled video streaming over the internet exacerbated the unwanted attention that was drawn to his family during the course of the investigation. Well, how does this matter? As a former teenage girl with normalcy in her life, Veronica has never witnessed such a heinous crime. This turning point marks the transition of the innocent schoolgirl to the sarcastic and witty teenager that she is now.


Sure, one might also say, “so what? she’s got a smart mouth now. How does that change anything?” For one, the rape that occurred shortly after coupled with the murder of her best friend shook her trust in the police force. This in turn made her more wary of her surroundings and questioned the motives around her. Does that sound familiar to the behavior that a person of a certain occupation does?

The past reflecting on the present



Being an outsider within Neptune High’s social hierarchy gives Veronica Mars a perspective that enables her to be an excellent detective. This is because of Veronica’s past experiences that haunt over her and shape the life around her. In the pilot of Veronica Mars, we discover that she is an outcast because of her disgraced father, missing mother, best friends death and the unsolved rape case that only two others have knowledge about. All of these factors motivate her to be a misbehaved overachiever.

Veronica receives good grades and can solve almost any crime yet she has this wall up that she only lets down for certain people. She speaks harshly to her teachers and the people around her but supports the people she is most close with. The new kid in town, Wallace, manages to break through this wall and gain Veronicas trust by also taking the role of an outsider, and giving her a true friend that is much needed in a time of despair. Wallace and Veronica work as a team to uncover crimes. Wallace being called a snitch the first day of school and being tied to the post allowed him to have a first hand view of how corrupt this society is. It allowed him to discover that he does not want to be a part of the groups who are bullies and choose to befriend Veronica instead. This guarded wall that Veronica puts up, is to protect her from harm that she is unstable enough to face.

Not only does Veronica constantly reflect on the past, but also she is desperate to uncover the truth that lies beneath all of the secrets and interferes with her moving on. Veronica allows the scaring incidents to fuel her anger and motivate her to solve the crimes as a distraction from society. This is her source of escape from the people around her. She wants to be able to know why everything is being kept from her and why her mom is always on the run so that she can bring her home.

Veronica’s protective cover not only wards people off but also makes them fear what she is capable of doing. During the episode Veronica claims that peoples opinions on the norm do not get to her, but she does admit that it is all depending on whom it is coming from. Her surrounding students are constantly bullying her to feel better about them selves when they know the death of her best friend was truly not her fault. These trust issues enable her to isolate herself from her surrounding peers and use a tough cover. A friend of Veronicas even states that getting tough may be a good idea, but getting revenge does not always help her case.

Veronica uses her troubles as a weapon to make sure justice is served. Throughout the show, Veronica is willing to help anyone who comes to her with pay or any close friends for free. She is always a step ahead of everyone and the people in her community are shocked when they figure out that she has outsmarted them. Veronica uses her influence and sneaky ways to be on top of society, without anyone in her society being aware that she holds that amount of power.


Voyeur on both sides of the lens

Magazine photographer Jeffery broke his leg by accident. His daily life is taken care of by his beautiful girlfriend Lisa. Only able to sitting on the wheelchair, Jeffery’s biggest interest is to observe what his neighbors are doing through the lens.  Each window contains its own story. But something unusual is happening in the apartment at the opposite of his rear window. He was suspicious that one of his neighbors killed his wife. At that time, he has already sunken into this quirk fondness. Actually, we audience are also as eager as Jeffery to find out what is going on. Everyone shares a trait that being born to be a voyeur because of the emptiness inside his or her heart. That’s what helps Hitchcock succeed in this movie – it is about voyeurism on both sides of the lens.

With only a few number of given camera angles, Hitchcock really made such thrilling  suspension out of  a small space. The main plot line may be the murder, but there are still lots of subplots are going on at the same time – each window indicates a different storyline just as our real life.

Hitchcock successfully captures our inner desire to peer what others are doing.  The Rear Window also reminds me of a film called Dans La Maison I watched earlier this year. It is about a writing teacher who asks his student Claude to observe and record what he saw about one of his classmates. Claude’s description is so fascinating and realistic that the teacher can’t help but keeping reading his assignment just like peering Claude’s classmate in person. What Claude writes offers the teacher another rear window to learn everything that’s going on. A voyeur may take different form to spy on others. But what is the main motivation for voyeurs?

Just like we are never tired of browsing our friends’ even strangers’ homepage on various kinds of social network, watching other people’s lives seems to be usual(like watching a TV show and we always want to know what next episode tells). Bound to bed due to his broken leg, Jeffery chooses to look through the window to kill the time. Yes at first it may be out of curiosity for him to do so. Yet as things develop, he find it more interesting to observe others’ lives than living his own one. Lisa and the other nurse whose name I forget persuaded Jeffery to do something else more than once and they show little interest in peering because they have their own meaningful life. In contrast, the emptiness inside Jeffery’s heart can only be filled by his craving to continue voyeur.

(need to be revised :/)

On the Outside looking In

In the pilot episode of Veronica Mars first season we are introduced to a character who is on the outside of the social hierarchy in high school. Due to her lack of mother, disgraced father, and her rape case that was not investigated, Veronica is set apart from everyone else and therefore cannot relate to them. It is this characteristic that makes her a good detective. In order to be a good observer you must be able to view situations just at face value, without any inhibitions of potential suspects or evidence. In “Rear Window” James Stewart’s character Jefferies is physically removed from all the events that occurred throughout the movie. He is given a vantage point, literally, and therefore is allowed to be able to make unbiased, clear observations. Another example of this is Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon”. Spade is a man removed emotionally from the women and people in his life. By being emotionally an outcast from the group of people involved in the case. It is this advantage that he has over people, making him a good detective. Finally the last example is Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler in both the television adaption of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia”, named “A Scandal in Belgravia”. Sherlock Holmes is an outcast intellectually, always being a step above everyone else, even if it seems unreasonable to his partners at that time, but it is Irene Adler who is in the best place of speculation. Her sexual dominance over Sherlock, displayed by her ability to distract him, makes her able to have no distractions from what shes doing; a place of high power. While Sherlock is the detective, he is conned by his own job’s best technique. Using all of these examples as proof of other fictional detectives, Veronica Mars is a detective, and is a good one, because of the fact that she is a social and emotional outcast who is able to create any conclusions about the situations at hand due to the benefit of observing at face value. Looking on the outside in on a situation is far more analytic than the alternative. Veronica Mars is a good detective because, like the other detectives, cannot, and should not, be involved in society.