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”.



Perspective and Popularity

When considering detectives, perspective is key. After all, they are expected to see the things that other people do not. This can only be done with a unique, somewhat isolated perspective. One must be able to separate themselves with whatever they are observing. Being an outsider within Neptune High’s social hierarchy gives Veronica Mars a perspective that enables her to be a good detective. Because of her social status, Veronica Mars is quick to defend herself and others in challenging situations and not driven by popularity and the cliques of high school like so many of her peers.

In the pilot episode of Veronica Mars, one of the very first thing the viewer sees is a young African-American man, Wallace, taped to a flag pole with the word “snich” painted across his chest.


This scene is also narrated by Veronica saying, “This is my school. If you go here your parents are either millionaires or work for millionaires . . ..”  At this point, her classmates are standing and laughing and taking pictures, while Veronica approaches with a knife and cuts him down. Clearly in a school where one can assume there is racial stereotyping, Veronica defies the norm and befriends the outcast. The viewer can only assume and later rationalize that this is because Veronica Mars is an outsider to the social hierarchy of high school herself.

The cause of Veronica Mars’ outsider status is introduced to the viewer later through a flashback: Veronica Mars was raped at a party. The show portrays a typical high school party with Veronica Mars’ friends at the time (these are now the people she’s come to hate). She is drugged and then assaulted and no one steps in to help her. Even when she reports the crime, she is laughed at and receives no help. The case is closed before it is even started. This represents the beginning of Veronica’s solitary search for vengeance. The rejection by the authority makes her quick to defend herself and she realizes that if she wants this crime to be solved she has to depend on herself to do it.

This independence and drive is present throughout the show as Veronica Mars navigates Neptune High. She is quick to defend those who wouldn’t gain support of the “authorities” or popular kids. She is an outcast herself and works with them during investigation. Her opinions are not driven by the popularity and social structure so present in high school making it easy to catch motives and secrets hidden between different social structures and groups. Veronica Mars’ perspective as an outcast makes her quick to defend herself and other outcasts and therefore enables her to be a great teenage detective.

The Use of Technology in BBC’s Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes has always been a great mastermind in literature. He is smart, cunning, and sly and always one step ahead of his suspects. In the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes uses the technology of a well-crafted magnifying glass to assist with his deductions; it was the technology of choice for a first-rate detective in his era. In BBC’s hit television show Sherlock, technology plays an even greater role. It assists Sherlock in his endeavors and it is also used in editing the show to give the viewers an even greater perspective into the classic detective’s mind.

In the episode A Scandal in Belgravia, the first thing that a viewer sees is a cell phone. Obviously when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the original stories from which the show is adapted, cell phones was just a figment of the imagination. However, the use of modern technology is continually present in BBC’s modern adaption. During A Scandal in Belgravia, Irene Adler does most of her major communication with Sherlock via text. Meanwhile, Sherlock is trying to hack into a cell phone for digitally stored, password protected pictures. Watson also uses modern technology in this version: all of his journaling is done on a blog and he is constantly checking his follower count to see how many Internet followers he has! The visual and audio representation of the cell phone and modern technology in this episode particularly keeps the viewers interest and provides additional background information without using dialogue or a voice-over.

That being said, the technology used to edit the Sherlock series also greatly enhances the viewers’ experiences. One of the most prominent features, particularly during scenes with cell phone use and blog writing, is that the text appears for viewers to read on screen. This text allows the viewer to feel personally involved in the plot and almost take on the character of Sherlock or Irene Adler in that instance. Text also appears on the screen for each analysis Sherlock does towards different object or people. It allows the viewer to see the small details that Sherlock comprehends and observe rather than just see. This text has an incredibly important purpose because it explicitly provides information that the viewer may not receive or understand otherwise. The hyperlink below includes a video which illustrates this as Sherlock attempts to analyze Irene Adler and then in comparison, John Watson.

Sherlock Tries to Analyze Irene Adler

The use of technology in BBC’s modern twist of Sherlock greatly differs from the state of the art magnifying glass used in the classic Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Modern technology like cell phones and computers are continually present throughout the show and are used to supplement the plot along with the editing, showing text messages as they appear on screen for the viewer to read. Clearly, modern technology plays a major role in the production and viewer understanding of BBC’s Sherlock.

Sam Spade and Betrayal

Page 90: “Red rage came suddenly into his face and he began to talk in a harsh guttural voice. Holding his maddened face in his hands glaring at the floor, he cursed Dundy for five minutes without break, cursed him obscenely, blasphemously, repetitiously, in a harsh guttural voice. Then we took his face out of his hands, looked at the girl, grinned sheepishly, and said: ‘Childish, huh? I know, but, by God, I do hate being hit without hitting back’.”


This passage occurs at the beginning of Chapter 9. Spade returns from the standoff with Cairo, Dundy, and Brigid. He has just been slapped by Cairo and unable to return the aggression, as Cairo was asked to leave immediately. At first glace, the strand of aggression presented in this paragraph seems most obvious. Hammett’s use of “obscenely”, “blasphemously”, and “red rage” quickly portray Spade’s anger at the situation. Upon second look, the repetition of “harsh guttural voice” and “cursed” becomes more apparent, as each phrase appears twice.

This passage is pivotal to the reader’s understanding of Sam Spade. It is a turning point for his character. Throughout the novel, we see Sam as angry, but very calculated; he is always careful not to let his emotions show around other people. Here, this is not the case. He blatantly expresses his anger towards Dundy and Cairo right in front of Brigid. Cleary, Sam Spade needs an emotional outlet and is not quite as cool and collected as he seems.

I think that Spade was so upset over this turn of events because he let others have control and take the best of him. From reading the previous chapters, one can see that Spade has mistrust for authority figures. Again, one can assume that this is because of his lack of control. Also, Sam Spade has no aversion to violence. In fact on page sixty-nine of the novel he says to Cairo, “And when you’re slapped, you’ll take it and you’ll like it.” Curiously, it is only when Spade is slapped and cannot reciprocate the action, does violence become a problem. This too highlights Sam’s dominant personality.

Sam Spade clearly is struggling with some issues in this passage and throughout the novel. I think that Spade has been betrayed by someone he trusted in his past, possibly an authority figure, and that is why he is so independent and mistrusting of others. Betrayal is quite evident throughout the plot as he refuses to trust Brigid, Cairo, or the policemen who he seems to be friendly with, and also continuously betrays Effie Perine, Iva Archer, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, each of whom believe to have some kind of romantic relationship with Sam Spade.

Spade controls his love triangle as he controls his business: quietly and by himself. When dealing with clients or business partners he keeps his emotions to himself and calculates what he says and how he says it very precisely. He relies on no allies and has himself as the main priority in any situation. As the plot evolves, we see Sam Spade become increasingly more temperamental. He dishes out violence and harsh words at an intensifying rate. Clearly, Sam Spade would rather be the bully than the bullied and I think that this is because of betrayal from a past relationship or event in his life.

The Maltese Falcon: Reaction Post

Page 68: “Exactly what,” Cairo asked in a low voice, “happened to Floyd?” The tip of Brigid O’Shaughnessy’s right forefinger traced a swift G in the air . . . “It might make a world of difference,” he said, and rearranged his hands in his lap so that, intentionally or not, a blunt forefinger point at Spade.


This passage takes place in Spade’s office between Cairo, Brigid, and Spade. They are all communicating and speculating over Miles Archer’s death when the comments above are made. While reading, the first thing I noticed was the repetition of the use of the forefinger and pointing. Each character points and suggests blame for Thursby’s death. Curiously, one character is understood as “good” and one as “bad” and one of the suspects is known and one is not. The contrast that is implied is interesting because it forces the reader to reconsider his or her present views and opinions on Spade and Brigid. Some would agree that Sam Spade is perfectly capable of murder and others might question Bridgid and her alliances. She has already lied about her identity and concealed her involvement with the Maltese Falcon. Perhaps she has gained knowledge of “G” through a past relationship or business partnership.

Naturally, the next thing to wonder is who is “G”? This section of the passage leads me to believe that Brigid may be trying to swindle Sam Spade. Brigid first met Sam as Wonderly, who was trying desperately to find Floyd Thursby. She made him sound dangerous. Now, in this passage, Brigid is showing that she had a relationship with Thursby, and may know of his enemies or other close relationships by insinuating that she knows valuable information about his murder.

Cairo also plays a fascinating role throughout the conversation because not only does he understand Brigid’s reference, he also questions Sam’s innocence in the murder of Thursby. After reading the passage, I think that Brigid and Cairo might be allies; both of them want to find the bird and both have connections to Thursby. However, I think Sam Spade is oblivious to the relationship at this point and all communication between Brigid and Cairo is discrete like the finger pointing at Spade.

The body language in the text is extremely important. Not only is it discrete, it also forces the reader to form an opinion. The text refers to Cairo’s pointing as “intentional or not”. At this point, the reader has to agree or disagree with these assumptions. It also makes you wonder if “G” is an ally or business partner to Spade; someone that Brigid and Cairo don’t want to reveal their alliance to and therefore communicate with body language. Furthermore, I think that although the reader seems to have a detailed description of Sam Spade’s character, Cairo saying, “It might make a world of difference,” seems to reveal that there is more to learn about Spade as the plot continues.

As the novel progresses I predict we will see Cairo and Brigid continue to get information from Sam and continue to play him in order to get what they want. Because Cairo was introduced as a gun-wielding criminal and Brigid has already portrayed several characters or acts, I think Cairo may take on more dangerous situations and do the “dirty work” while Brigid works on Spade and uses him for information and connections in the city.