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.