“Money?” Frode said.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opens with mystery, but proceeds to weave a tale of finance. Blomkvist is a financial reporter, guilty of libel and without much money himself. When Salander is giving her report to Frode about Blomkvist, Frode asks her about his financial state. She replies simply with, “He’s not rich, but he’s not starving. Income tax returns are attached to the report. He has about 250,000 SEK in the bank, in both a retirement fund and a savings account. He has a bank account of around 100,000 kronor that he uses as cash for working expenses, travel and such.” Blomkvist is not rich. Converted into USD, he has just under $40,000 in the bank and around $15,000 for travel, placing him directly in what we would consider the “middle class”. He is our “everyman”, our control group, in Larsson’s study on class and corruption that is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Stieg Larsson represents the lower, middle and upper classes in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, weaving their stories together into one narrative, solving the mystery of the murder of Harriet, Henrik Vanger’s grandniece. The Vangers are Larsson’s upper class, they are wealthy, they have power and they know how to wield it, as shown when Henrik announces The Vanger Corporation’s partnership with Millennium, Blomkvist’s magazine that is having financial trouble after his conviction of libel. But Henrik Vanger’s cooperation with Millennium, isn’t out of the goodness of his heart, he want’s Blomkvist to solve the case and he can’t have him distracted by news that his magazine is about to go under. Blomkvist mentions numerous times, most specifically when the two of them first meet, how Henrik is a practiced politician, how he can get what he wants by spinning words and telling a story that gets you hooked. But while Henrik never openly does anything illegal, the rest of the Vanger family has secrets behind closed doors. The entire Vanger family is full of anti-semites and as we later learn, murderers and rapists. We get to discover all this as Blomkvist, who is both firmly rooted in the middle class and a reporter who investigates corruption amongst the wealthy, begins his search for who killed Harriet.
However, Blomkvist isn’t alone in his search for the killer. Soon he is joined by Lisbeth Salander, a lower class hacker who did the background check on him. She is representative of the lower class, though interestingly, by choice. Dragan Armansky makes note in the novel that she could be making far more money than she does, but that she chooses the freedom of her time over additional money. This could partially be that in her experiences with researching people for her job with Milton Security, she has seen how people with wealth are so easily and so often corrupt. However, with her job as a hacker, this brings up the question of what Larsson believes to be corruption.
Blomkvist is the middle class reporter and the one who is always bringing up the topic of calling the police, something the Henrik and Lisbeth are often against. Larsson paints Blomkvist as the “good boy”, the least corrupt of everyone, but even towards the end, he’s ok with Lisbeth using less than legal methods of gaining the information he wants. The Vanger family is full of corruption, anti-semites, murderers, rapists and terrible people in general. Lisbeth has no regard for privacy, digging into people’s computers illegally to obtain the things she wants. While the Vanger’s are generally portrayed as being the worst of these, Larsson’s narrative asks a question about money and corruption, whether it is wealth that corrupts, or if humans are already corrupt by nature and the wealthy are simply the most visible.