The Frame: Who are the Real Victims?

The Frame: Who are the Real Victims?

From the very onset of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, Stieg Larsson implements an air of uncertainty. However, at first glance the novel may seem to be straightforward, but upon further investigation it is revealed to be even more complex than originally thought, even breaking down the literary fourth wall separating the readers and the characters within the novel.

Larsson uses many techniques to connect characters and his audience, most often through the repetition of new information that may seem to be important. For example, throughout the prologue of the novel, a description of a veteran police officer and an old man, Larsson thrusts us into an investigation with a rush of information such as numbers and cities. At this point, the audience has no context behind the mystery, only specific information. This allows readers to create assumptions that may later lead them down the wrong track.

From this point, Larsson’s next use of repetition throughout the prologue and much of the novel may lead us to believe that he has been playing the audience into a trick. The repetition of the word “frame” throughout the prologue could hold many meanings. Obviously, in the literal and physical sense of the word, there are frames all over the man’s room. However, on a deeper level, Larsson may be changing the definition of a frame from a noun into a verb. Perhaps this repetition is a hint for an expert detective reader that he or she should not always believe or jump to conclusions based on what they see.

It can be argued that Larsson is simply framing this entire novel, simply to mislead both characters within the novel, and those reading the novel. Perhaps Larsson is simply implying that framing others may be a common theme throughout the rest of the novel, or he may even be taking a cinematic definition of a frame, hinting to the audience to pay close attention to each and every frame of the novel. While this analysis may seem fairly strong, certain aspects of the prologue may lead to complications down the road. For example, when describing the police officer’s career, Larsson explains that his ninth murder case went unsolved, and in the old man’s room, the ninth slot in the first row was missing a frame.

The Outsiders

The Outsiders

It seems as though many of the brilliant detectives of the film noir genre share numerous qualities that make each one of them special in their own ways. Among these qualities are: cleverness, dedication, perseverance, and passion. However, there remains one more quality that the likes of Sam Spade, Jefferies, and Sherlock Holmes share with the new-age detective, Veronica Mars, and that quality is isolation. Each detective, in their own way, remains isolated from those around them either by personal choice or by other external circumstances. One can argue that the success of these detectives could have derived from their outsider statuses.

In Sam Spade’s case, he constantly has people around him interacting with him, but he manages them in a way that isolates himself so that others don’t interfere with his work. For instance, almost at all times, Spade is interacting with one of his many women, Brigid, Effie, or Iva, or any of his foes, Gutman, Cairo, or Wilmer. However, though he is interacting with these people, he remains independent of their influences. When making the ultimate decision on whether to protect Brigid or turn her in, Spade used this isolation to do what was legally correct, thus, completing his job.

With Jefferies, he is physically isolated from the world as he is confined to his wheel chair in his room. The only connection he has with the world outside is through his window. This isolation allows him to get an angle on crime in a manner in which no one else can. He is able to see everything that is going on from his window and has the time to come up with logical deductions from that point.

Sherlock Holmes is mentally an outsider. His quirky personality and detachment from normal social and emotional reactions allow him to free himself of any of the many distractions he may face while allowing himself to view the case as logically and unbiased as possible. This detachment is evident in the interactions between both he and Irene Adler. Adler is extremely sensual and attempts to use the emotional reactions she gets out of men to her advantage. However, this attempt doesn’t work on Sherlock Holmes because he has essentially transcended the emotional component of human beings.

Veronica Mars, a typical high school student, faces the isolation that high school students are often known for going through, however, her case is an extreme. With all of the struggles in her life, especially in her rape, Veronica is forced out of her natural comfort zone and into almost complete isolation. This sudden fall from grace in her life attests to the fierceness and spitefulness of her personality. During all of the adversity that she had been faced with, Veronica never got help; no one was on her side, and no one was there for her. This isolation has driven Veronica to a state where her only goal was to get the job done at whatever the cost. Her exile from her group of friends allows her to get to observe them in a way that she previously would not have been able to. This isolation, in turn, leads to her improvement as a detective and problem solver in general.

The isolation that each of these great detectives go through at some point in time does not always stem from the same causes. However, it can be heavily argued that a view from the outside, isolated from the world around ones self, can give a detective a new and unique perspective that eventually classifies them as great.

Veronica Mars Sitting Alone at Lunch

Sherlock’s Mirror Image

Sherlock’s Mirror Image

As Sherlock, Irene, and Mycroft sit in the elegant dining room to negotiate, Sherlock sits quietly and patiently while Irene states her demands. Once Sherlock figures out what he wants to say and how to say it, he is quickly shot down and equally refuted by Irene. This battle goes on as each of them strike observational blows at each other until finally, Sherlock proves his point and silences Irene. These battles between Holmes and Adler occur frequently and fiercely throughout the novel and the film, with each character holding their own victories from time to time.
The concept of battling between Sherlock and Irene was relevant from the outset of their relationship. As Sherlock searches for something to wear for their first meeting, Irene picks out her “battle dress” to combat that. The back and forth action between each of the two individuals continue on throughout their interactions with each other, despite what was happening around them, perhaps suggesting that they may not be as individual as they seem.
Irene, in faking death, leads Sherlock to believe that he has won the battle since he now possesses the phone with all of the information on it. However, Irene outsmarts him by faking her own death and coming back to take back the phone. In another instance, Sherlock feels that he has outsmarted Irene yet again when he analyzes the email and figures out the plot to destroy the plane, however, he is simply playing into yet another trap set by the cunning Irene Adler.
While it may seem like the tension between Sherlock and Irene is far too strong for any connection to be made, the frequency and intensity of these back and forth battles of with and the relative evenness of the competitors show how each of them, in essence, are mirror images or equals to themselves.

Reaction Paper 2

“She lifted her cup to her lips again. Spade, not moving the domineering stare of his yellow-grey eyes from her face, began to make a cigarette.”(87)

As the quest to obtain the Maltese Falcon continues on, Sam Spade develops and evolves into a whole new class of masculinity. Spade always came off as manly with his “V” shaped face and body and his suave personality, but now, he has turned into a whole new beast, literally. The domineering stare of his eyes, yellow, just like those of a falcon, show that he isn’t playing around anymore. Spade is getting down to business in the most efficient way possible at any cost.

This trend of yellow eyes continues as Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy are getting intimate. Yet again, Spade is taking control of the situation and, at any cost, getting what he wants. As his eyes begin to “burn yellowly”, it is clear that he has the power, and he is dominant, just like a falcon is (89). Spade has taken a new approach to getting this job done and as the people around him change and develop, he manages to as well.

A falcon is a predator of the sky. As it flies high above the ground it uses its yellow eyes to seek out and attack its prey. Sam Spade is a falcon. As he enters the lobby of the hotel in search of Cairo, he spots instead the boy who had been tailing him. At this point, “points of yellow light begin to dance in his eyes” (93). Spade has found his prey. Without hesitation, he approaches the boy and makes his intentions clear; he is not messing around.

As the novel heats up and the characters of San Francisco develop and change, often for the worst, Sam Spade’s inner falcon comes out in order for him to complete the task at hand at whatever the cost.

Reaction Paper 1

“Cairo’s face was darkened by a flush of annoyance. He put an ugly hand on wither arm of his chair, holding his small-boned body erect and stiff between them. His dark eyes were angry. He did not say anything” (Page 67)

As the mood switches and the power within the situation shifts from Cairo’s hands to Spade’s hands, Cairo’s visage drastically changes. From a once smooth and sultry, effeminate man, Cairo is turned into what seems to be an old, evil, angry, almost witch-like character. When Cairo had the power, he carried himself in a way that most would describe as over confident or cocky. Now that the power has been taken away from him, his face had been darkened, his hands were now weak and ugly, and his small body was stiff along the chair, just as would be the case for a witch.

Within this moment in the story, darkness is a repeated theme. Cairo’s face was dark, his eyes were dark, and in turn, his personality was dark. This shift towards darkness may mean that the story is now delving into the darkness that it may entail. Perhaps the dark pasts of the people of San Francisco are going to come forward, and perhaps people are no longer going to be willing to ask nicely to get what they want. Maybe Cairo is no longer going to beat around the bush with his demands and is now going to strive to get what he wants at any cost.

As the story progresses and the amount of drama builds up, the initial beauty wears away as the true colors of the people of San Francisco come into play. Sam no longer seems like the flawless ideal of a man, Brigid O’Shaughnessy no longer has the innocence that she once had, and Joel Cairo no longer has the power, the flash, or the confidence that he originally portrays. This, perhaps, could lead the story into the many twists, turns, and red herrings that most mysteries often have.