Study Guide

The Girl Who Played With Fire Gender

By Stieg Larsson


He's planning to murder her. Forty million in the pot. The storm is his camouflage. This is his chance. (3.79)

When the novel opens, Salander is in Grenada, and she encounters an American couple Richard and Geraldine Forbes. She realizes Richard is abusing Geraldine and then learns he's planning to murder her for her money. Salander foils his plans and sets the tone for the rest of the novel's much more complicated plot which centers around the abuse of women by men involved in the sex trade.

Dag: "It's a tremendous assault on human rights, and the girls involved are so far down society's ladder that they're of no interest to the legal system." (4.127)

The novel wants us to spend some time thinking about prostitutes, some of the most vulnerable people in any society and how prostitutes aren't usually given equal protection under the law, or anywhere else.

"Dag's book is a polemic aimed at the people who are making money from trafficking. My thesis is statistics, field studies, law texts, and a study of how society and the courts treat the victims. (5.32)

Together, Dag and Mia are planning to try to expose the men who profit from the sex trade. They also want to expose the larger problem of how the women involved in the sex trade are further victimized by society and court systems which see them as worthless and unimportant.

Mia: "In this sense there is sort of a gender perspective to my thesis. It's not often that a researcher can establish roles along gender lines so clearly. Girls – victims; boys – perpetrators." (5.36)

What do you think of this? Is it true to real life? Is Mia a biased researcher? Would her research be more helpful if she were to include male victims and female victimizers? Or, does she need to keep her focus narrow to make her point? Assuming there are male victims of the sex trade, are these males less vulnerable than the females? Why, or why not?

Faste: "S***, the whores are looking worse all the time. You'd have to be pretty desperate to pick her up." (14.17)

When Detective Faste makes this observation about Salander, we are pretty sure he's a nasty guy. We aren't very surprised when he tells Inspector Modig he thinks she's not fit to be a policeperson. His condemnation of Modig, who seems to be the most competent member of the team, seems wholly based on her gender.


The media has a field day with the rumors that Salander is a lesbian Satanist. Of course, the Satanist thing is totally bogus, but she does have sex with women. But why should this matter? Have you seen the media in your country use a person's sexuality against them? Or not?

When it later turned out that Norgren had been convicted for sexual offenses twice before, the prosecutor decided to drop the case. But that did not mean the social welfare report on Salander was set aside. (21.10)

Even Salander's defense of herself against a known sexual predator is turned against her. Notice that even though the case against Salander is dropped, Norgren isn't charged or punished in any way for assaulting her. Furthermore, her enemies have no problem using the social welfare report depicting the incident to paint her as a violent criminal.

The press would rip him to shreds. A member of the Security Police who exploited teenage prostitutes…If only those f***ing cunts hadn't been so young. (23.29)

This is Gunnar Björck thinking about his plight. Typical of a bad guy in a Larsson novel, he doesn't feel bad that he abused women, only that he might be exposed. His thoughts reflect a general attitude toward women as disposable sex objects.

It was no report. It was a cover-up. Zalachenko was more important than Agneta Salander. He could not be identified or exposed. He did not exist. (28.142)

Even though quite a few people must have known about the beating Salander's mother was getting from Zala, nobody really cared about her except her daughter. This is in large part because the Secret Police are protecting Zala, but also seems to suggest a general indifference toward women being physically abused.

Salander: "I don't suppose my sisters will get a role in the family business." (31.84)

Zalachenko looked startled at the suggestion. (31.85)

"Zalachenko…you're just an ordinary asshole who hates women." (31.86)

This brief exchange highlight's Zala's view that women are only valuable as objects to be beaten, or used for sex. He can't even imagine a woman as having the brains and/or the brawn to do business.